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Brian Coates: Operational manager, Sherwin-Williams paint company

  • Brian Coates, the operational manager for Sherwin Williams Paint Company.

    Sarah Weiser / The Herald

    Brian Coates, the operational manager for Sherwin Williams Paint Company.

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By Theresa Goffredo
Herald Writer
  • Brian Coates, the operational manager for Sherwin Williams Paint Company.

    Sarah Weiser / The Herald

    Brian Coates, the operational manager for Sherwin Williams Paint Company.

Q: How did your name direct your career path?
A: It didn't actually influence my career, but it was ironic. I was going to college in Spokane and renting a place and unbeknownst to me, I was renting from the vice president of Columbia Paint. Through some extenuating circumstances, my roommates moved out and I was looking to move and the owner didn't want me to, so he got me a job. I remember discussing it with him and he said, "Brian, it is ironic that you'll be working in the paint industry with a last name of Coates."
I had wanted to get into sports medicine. After I did my two years of general requirements, I was looking to transfer to the University of Santa Barbara in California and my dad took ill. Basically I had to go to work full time.
I have been with Columbia Paint for 27 years until they were bought out by Sherwin-Williams, whom I've been with for three years, so I've been in the industry for 30 years in April.
Q: Would you change your name if you could, and why or why not?
A: When I was younger I was always a little embarrassed by my name, the kids would do the whole "jackets and sweaters in lieu of coats" thing. But I admire my last name now; my grandfather was a professional boxer, and he actually went through his entire career undefeated, and just that right there makes me proud of my last name.
He never made it to big levels, but I've got lots of newspaper articles. His nickname was "Knockout Coates."
My passion was football... mostly running back and defensive back.
Q: If you could choose another career, what would it be?
A: My dream job would be playing for the Dallas Cowboys. I am a huge Dallas Cowboys fan. I'm 51 so there were no Seahawks when I was growing up, and my dad was a big Packers fan and I remember watching the Ice Bowl and I've been a huge fan ever since. My office here is covered, side by side, in Cowboys paraphernalia.
I fulfilled a dream two years ago when I went to a national sales meeting in Dallas, and I took a ride out to Texas Stadium and had a tour and got to see the locker rooms, meet some players and throw a football around. It was my Mecca.
As for choosing another career, I would still like to be involved in sports somehow.
Q: How do you know when someone has picked up on the fact that your name is an aptonym?
A: Most of my customers I've dealt with for years, so I get it mostly from the retail customers that come in, and I give them a business card and they look at it, and they see the last name and say, "You sure have an apt last name for the career you chose." I hear it almost on a daily basis.
Q: How do people react to the combination of your name and job? Do they get it? Any funny stories as a result?
A: I have had customers over the years come in and say the old "How many Coates of paint do you think I need Coates?" or "Do you recommend a second coat of that Coates?" and "Will this paint cover in one coat, Coates?"
It's funny, over the years I see the same guys every day and though they are business customers, they have become friends. This field, it's a male-oriented kind of job, so it's like a big locker room in here a lot of the time. There's lots of ribbing going on between contractors and myself.
What's an aptonym?
It's a name aptly suited to its owner. Read more stories about apt names at
About this series
The word is "aptonym."
It refers to people whose name suggests key attributes of their jobs, professions or lives. Their names might have, in fact, influenced their lives or careers.
It's no surprise that The Herald has found lots of these people living in our area. They are vital members of the community, as well as being good sports for playing along.
So for the third summer and for the next several weeks, we'll be profiling our local aptonyms. If you happen to know an aptonym or are one yourself, send the name to
Story tags » Human Interest

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