Q&A with Vice President of Sales USA, Rick Brown

How did you get started in Sales?

I've always had a sales background. My first sales "job" was when I was in third grade, and my mother would stop at the gas station next to the grade school to get a cup of coffee. One day, I asked her for ten cents to buy two Now and Later candies that were five cents apiece. And I went to school with them, even though we weren't supposed to have candy in class. Well, another kid said he sure would like to have one. So, I sold him one for a dime, and I made five cents.

I returned the next day, borrowed ten more cents from my mother, added a nickel to it, and got three pieces of candy. And then I sold them for 30 cents at school.

I kept the school hustling gig going throughout the year until I got a paddling at school because they caught me selling a pair of tennis shoes my mom had bought me for like $30. I sold them for $45.

What initially drew you to the coatings industry?

In high school, I had a friend whose father worked as a painter in the commercial and residential building industry. I needed a part-time job, and my friend's dad needed somebody to watch the paint store while he and my buddy were out in the field.

That's how I started in the world of paint and coatings as a kid. But after that, it was just the connection and communication I had with customers in that industry. And everywhere I went, through college and moving on from there, it seemed like they were authentic people with good work ethics and strong family values. They were just good folks overall.

What are some of the other roles you've had in the industry?

I went to college at UNC Wilmington, and during my first semester, I hung out, as every good Southern boy does when he goes to college. Well, I quickly realized I needed a job.

The paint business was exploding in the area due to massive real estate growth. And since I already had that familiarity with paint from my high school days, I decided to work at a local residential paint store, where I ultimately made some meaningful connections.

When I finished college, I started work at an independently owned distributor before moving on to a large paint manufacturer. Some of the connections I made at that manufacturer ended up at Carboline, and I came over and joined them at the company back in 2000.

What are some of the greatest lessons you've learned along the way?

It's a small industry, and it's a small world, no matter where you go. Honesty's your best policy. You've got to tell the truth. You've got to treat people how you'd want to be treated, both from a business and personal standpoint. And it's best to build strong relationships with people you can invite over to your house for a barbecue or a cookout.

What excites you most about your new position?

The people—getting out in front of customers and building solid relationships. Many years ago, when I first started in the industry, a wise man told me that people don't come to your house to buy paint; you have got to go out and see them. This position allows me the opportunity to do that.

Who are some of your mentors?

Family, for sure, multiple members of my family. But outside of that, my biggest mentor would probably be a gentleman by the name of Dick Wilson, who was president of Carboline for many years. He helped forge the path of taking us from a small company to where we are today and instilled some great values along the way. He contributed to my initial coming to work at Carboline.

Also, Darrin Andrews. And I'm not just saying that because he's my boss. But the experience he's gained through the years, both here and at other companies, has given him a unique perspective. He has a knack for seeing things that others would typically overlook.

What is an example of a success story you've seen in your career that has influenced you greatly?

I've watched several customers start as journeyman painters and work their way up the ranks. Some of them started with literally nothing. One guy saved up enough money through work to buy a house, which he eventually sold with just enough proceeds to purchase a used piece of equipment.

He and his brother worked to rebuild that piece of equipment with their own hands so they could get into the industrial coatings side of the world. This guy reached out to a couple of vendors, one of which was an equipment vendor, and the other was a paint company named Carboline.

He came to us and said, "Hey, I want to build this thing, but I don't have a nickel to my name. I'm broke." And we looked at him and said, "We can certainly help any way you need because we believe in you just like you believe in us. Here's the material. Take it and pay us when you can."

He did his first project and paid us within, I'm guessing, maybe 90 days, which was longer than the terms, but we were willing to work with him. And that was probably 14 or 16 years ago. That individual now has roughly $450 million worth of business on the books.

And from that, I see that anything's possible. Here, I've got a company with tons of resources, Sales, Marketing, RD&I, Technical, Accounting, Credit, Distribution, Transportation, you name it, all the different facets of a business. But this one individual took a company that was him and his brother, and they built a company almost as big as Carboline. That's pretty impressive when you think about it. If he can do it, surely we can, given our team.

What would your walk-up song be and why?

I'm a big Widespread Panic fan. One of my favorite ones is "Ain't Life Grand" because I think you've got to keep a positive outlook on everything you do, no matter the situation. And then a second one would probably be "Travelin' Light" because you've got to pack your bags, get out, and see people. And you have to realize that you can only take so many things with you and understand that the world changes constantly.

What is something that people might find surprising about you?

I struggle with this because I talk so much. I feel like everybody knows everything about me. Maybe some people would find it trivial, but I completed an Ironman and did triathlons for about ten years. I don't run nearly as much anymore, but I once dreamed of competing in an ultramarathon. After my last full try at an Ironman, I laid in bed for about a day or two and could hardly move. And that's when I realized that my ultramarathon dream wouldn't become a reality.