An industrialist who grew a village business into a global icon has died aged 70.
Ralph Nollett, who drove the extraordinary expansion of Coventry firm Pailton Engineering – which went on to win business of the year at the Birmingham Post Business Awards – died at his home in Kenilworth on October 22, aged 70, after a short illness.
He leaves wife Ronnie, six children and four grandchildren.
His funeral was held at Canley Crematorium on November 1.
Ronnie said: “He loved people and they loved him, he seemed to draw them to him.
“He was extremely clever, extremely wise, and a really proud family man. All his children have been really successful.”
Pailton Engineering was founded by Ralph Nollett’s father as a tiny two-machine operation in an old bakehouse in Pailton, near Rugby, in 1969.
In just three years he had grown the business, relocating it to Coventry where it makes steering systems for commercial and military vehicles.
Today it also has factories in Chicago, Frankfurt and Motherwell, and employs 160 people in Coventry and 230 worldwide.
Ralph’s son John, 43, the company’s managing director, said: “You have just got to look back to where the company was when he joined.
“It’s about how he brought it out of Pailton to Coventry, and grew it to the size it is today, a group of companies, with a turnover of £20 million a year.
“Dad was very driven, he knew what he wanted, but he was such a fair man, and was never the ‘big I am’.
“Quality and customer service were his top priorities, he would help people to the nth degree.”
Ralph worked at Rootes and Ford before joining his dad at Pailton.
John hopes to emulate the success of Ralph, and pass the legacy on to another member of the family when he retires aged 55.
“The plans are to take the business to £50 million a year, I do not see that as a major problem,” he said.
“The growth can continue and there are other products we can produce.
“We are always nipping at the heels of the big boys: we’re like the corner shop pinching trade from Tesco.
“It would be nice if the business continued to be family-run, not just family-owned.”