Colin Hill retired at the end of March after a 45-year career at Blue Dragon. We thank Colin for his amazing hard work and dedication by looking back at his career and hear some of his thoughts about the industry.
Colin looks back on 45 years at Blue Dragon
Colin told us “The biggest influence on my career has been Richard Orford, who mentored me as I began my career with Blue Dragon and, from those early days, we developed a very close working relationship which still remains in place today.
The highlights of my time in the industry are most definitely becoming the President of the TSA and representing the industry at the highest level, and also my association with the WCL, and having the privilege of becoming the Master of a City Livery Company, especially in the year of the Queens Diamond Jubilee.
There has been considerable change within the industry over the past 45 years, most notably in relation to technology, from machinery design to the ability to manage and control the work flowing through the plants, to stock control with the use of RFID. Computerisation has transformed what was essentially quite a manual industry. There have also been significantly improvements in Health and Safety and employment law has also become a major focus for businesses.
As we emerge from the pandemic, I can see many small dry cleaning companies struggling to stay viable, which may in the long term be good for those that are left. Innovative thinking is required to survive and add on services other than garment and household cleaning will be needed.”
William Orford, MD of Blue Dragon Ltd “Colin has been an integral part of Blue Dragon all of my working life. When I joined the family business in 1994 Colin’s experience and expertise in laundry and dry cleaning was invaluable. I will miss him greatly but wish him and Caroline a very long and happy retirement. Colin, after so many years of dedication to the business and the Orford family you truly deserve some rest & relaxation!”
Colin Hill’s Career 1976 to 2021
“The great pleasure I have got from working in the laundry and dry cleaning sector is that it is a ‘friendly industry’. I have made many friends over the years and I hope to keep in contact with many of them and of course continue to arrange industry golf days through the Laundry and Cleaning Industry Sports Club.
I have to thank Richard Orford for giving me the opportunity back in 1976 to join him at Blue Dragon, for his support and trust in me over all the years, and to all the many people I have had the pleasure to work with at the company.” Colin Hill
Born & Bred 1956-1976
Suds in the Blood
A Education in Laundry & Dry Cleaning
Born in Luton in 1956 with soap suds in his blood, Colin’s father, Jim Hill, had invested into the launderette business in 1953 growing to eight premises around the Luton, Dunstable and Hitchin area, known as ‘The Straw Hatter Launderettes’.
Educated at Wellingborough School in Northamptonshire. On leaving school he was persuaded by his father to enrol on the two-year Laundry & Dry Cleaning Technology sandwich course at Derby College of Art & Technology, now Derby University. As part of the course students had to work for six months in the industry – he worked at Watford Steam Laundry which provided an excellent grounding for his future career. In 1976 he graduated from Derby College.
Career 1976 - 2021
A Blue Dragon from the Offset
Towards the end of his course, he responded to an ad in The Power Laundry magazine looking for a personal assistant to the managing director of small family business – this turned out to be Richard Orford of Blue Dragon, which in 1976 had laundries at Hillingdon and Beaconsfield, and several dry cleaning unit shops and receivers. He joined Blue Dragon on 4 May 1976. He was only 19 years old.
Under the guidance of Richard Orford, he was introduced and mentored in all aspects of the Blue Dragon Group. Over his career he has covered every job connected to the running of a laundry and drycleaners, both practical and administrative. Over the next decade he became involved in pushing the company forward and introducing more contract work into the laundries and expanding the dry cleaning business to six dry cleaning shops. In 1986 he was invited to join the Board
Colin has held almost every industry post
1987 – became a Liveryman of the Worshipful Company of Launderers (WCL).
1991 – Colin began what was to become a long relationship with the trade body, by joining the Laundry Committee of ABLCRS (Association of British Launderers, Cleaners and Rental Services), now the TSA.
2001 – took over from Richard Orford as the Managing Director of Blue Dragon Dry Cleaners
2008 – became President of the TSA for two years during which time he was instrumental in forming the TSA Board in 2009 – he was the first Chairman.
2011 – Master of the Worshipful Company of Launderers (WCL)
2017 – Blue Dragon started providing hotel guest and staff services, running out of the central processing centre in Bourne End
Currently a Fellow of the Guild of Launderers and Cleaners, and the Honorary Secretary of the Laundry and Cleaning Industry Sports Club. The sports club was established in 1924 and holds annual golf days.
2021 – Colin retired in March 2021 and was awarded the Lifetime Achievement Award at The LADAs in November.