Auto Service World
Feature   March 1, 2014   by Auto Service World

Ed Coates, Lordco Auto Parts

Husband, Family Man, Leader June 23, 1948 - February 17, 2014

Ed Coates was a unique individual who was able to combine a joy for competing in business with a generosity of spirit. It drove the success of the Lordco Auto Parts business he co-founded with Roy Lord in 1974, and gave the extended Lordco family of more than 1,700 employees a sense of belonging.
Ed Coates passed away peacefully with his family at his side on February 17, 2014 at Ridge Meadows Hospital at the age of 65. Ed was born on June 23, 1948, in New Westminster, B.C., the second son of five children born to Shirley and Edward (Harry) Coates. He is survived by his mother, Shirley; his loving wife of 42 years, Marlyn; their four children: Samantha, Sarah (Garett), Ian (Erin), and Candace (Brian); their seven precious grandchildren: Natalie, Brooklyn, Dylan, Sydney, Joshua, Delaney and Harper; brother Dave (Carol), sister Leslie (John), sister Evelyn (Don), brother Doug (Lornie) and many nieces, nephews, grand- nieces and grand-nephews.
While his status as an icon of the Canadian automotive aftermarket is undeniable, his modest beginnings gave little early indication of the success in business that would come over the next 40 years.
After only six years in the aftermarket, Coates, with wife Marlyn by his side, joined with 22-year aftermarket veteran and partner Roy Lord – they met while working for R. Walker & Sons, but left when that business was acquired – to set up shop in Maple Ridge in a 900-square-foot building, doing their utmost to out-service the competition.
With great powers of recall, Ed Coates developed a reputation as a counterperson without peer, able to recall part numbers with speed and accuracy; that talent for numbers stayed with him for his entire career, though in more recent years his powers of recall were more often applied to the business metrics that kept Lordco on track.
The formula for success – service, service, service – fuelled Lordco’s expansion through the 1970s and 1980s, with Coates purchasing Roy Lord’s shares in the business in the early 1980s. Today, Lordco operates some 97 locations throughout British Columbia, and is the largest privately held automotive aftermarket distributor in Canada.
Ed Coates remained its sole shareholder until his untimely death, yet despite his position as the undisputed leader of the organization, and his grasp of every detail and every decision that took place, he refused to be cast as the only voice that matters within the Lordco organization.
“I don’t think that’s quite the way it is,” he told Jobber News in 2011 after receiving the Distinguished Service Award, the Automotive Industries Association of Canada’s highest honour. “We delegate quite a bit to all our people. There are seven regions and seven regional managers. They’re in charge of the outside sales, the administration, the staffing, and everything to do with the region.
“They get an enormous amount of autonomy. In fact, I’ll go on record as saying they get more autonomy than anyone else in our industry. And our managers have a lot of autonomy over their own stores and people. They’re not restricted in any way on what inventory they can bring in. If they feel they want to bring in a certain product that we are already carrying within the umbrella of the company, they are welcome to put in as much as they want.
“If we’re successful, they’re successful. So we’re not afraid to share the wealth.”
But through it all he and Marlyn were also building a family. Today children Samantha, Sarah, Candace, and Ian are all deeply involved in the Lordco organization. And brother Doug worked alongside him at Lordco for some 30 years.
Lordco has long been and is still a family business, owned by and in control of the Coates family, even as the patriarch has passed on. That family aspect is a part of the fabric of Lordco that Ed Coates valued greatly.
“One of the things that a lot of folks might have trouble understanding is that all of my family works in the organization,” said Coates in 2011. “So I see my children every day, which is probably more than most people would. And we’re quite involved as a family.”
“Family was huge for Ed. A lot of people in the automotive business don’t know how much of a family man he was,” says long-time friend Lou Bauldic. “Family was first. Ed and his family would love nothing better when the kids were young than to gather and watch movies. In recent years on a sunny Sunday afternoon in his yard, the family would gather with the kids and the grandkids, Ed making sure everybody was okay and had what they needed. He was just like a mother hen, and loving every minute.”
“And when I think of Ed Coates I think of music,” says Bauldic. “Ed had a tremendous love of music, and all kinds of music. He couldn’t go anywhere without his music. And both he and Marlyn shared the same love of music. If there was somebody they wanted to see in concert, it didn’t matter where, they went.”
Coates’ love of music meant that musical performances by Canadian acts such as Blue Rodeo, Tom Cochrane, and adopted Canadian Johnny Reid, became a key part of many customer events, though Bob Dylan continued to be a personal favourite of his and the timeless “the times they are a changin’” was an oft-quoted phrase.
“And to me, for the most part my job is my entertainment. It is what I do for fun,” he offered in 2011. “I enjoy travelling, so it doesn’t bother me to get in my car or on a plane to go somewhere. My wife has been very supportive over the years. She does attend a lot of trips with me, but I probably go half the time or more on my own, and she’s okay with that.
“It’s always been a very fulfilling adventure. And I give credit for a lot of that that to the fact that I have a great team that I work with. We do delegate a lot of things.
“I spend, on average, 150 to 160 days a year away from the office. Without the support of my team I don’t think I could ever do that.”
As recently as last November, Ed Coates continued to give his time to bettering the industry, as the mentor presenter at the Young Executive Society workshop held at Horseshoe Valley near Barrie, Ont.
He entertained and reminisced and spoke honestly about the challenges for the Lordco business – “The biggest challenge for expansion is getting good people to man the operations, especially in remote locations,” he said – and reminisce about the old days: “Back in 1974, six brake shoe numbers gave you full GM coverage.”
“I think that Lordco never really stands still,” he told Jobber News in 2011. “We’re always trying to reinvent ourselves. We know that the times are changing all the time, and as far as me personally, I am going to stay doing what I’m doing as long as I can, until the point comes where my health or whatever won’t allow me to continue.”
Ed Coates was truly a man who took life by the horns, taking advantage of every opportunity life had to offer.
The Coates family will establish a legacy fund in Ed’s memory in the months ahead, the details of which will be announced in the upcoming weeks.

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