heidi petz coo of sherwin williams

Alum's colorful career leads to leadership role at Sherwin-Williams

April 29, 2022


Heidi Petz, a 1997 Jepson School of Leadership Studies grad, became president and chief operating officer of the Sherwin-Williams Co. in March. She is less interested in the title and instead is galvanized running and fine-tuning a business — understanding the levers, the profit and loss, consumer psychology, corporate culture, and team engagement.

“It’s never been about me, it’s about surrounding myself with really smart people and winning with them,” she said. “There’s nothing better.”

Growing up in central Pennsylvania as the middle child with two brothers, Petz was the catalyst for family gatherings, whether that meant helping her grandfather make pot roast for Sunday dinners or organizing activities so that all 16 family members had an enjoyable time on beach vacations in New Jersey.

“I love to design and build — I love the choreography,” she said. “I love to create momentum.”

The University of Richmond’s campus, size, and quaintness appealed to her as did pursuing a business and communications path. “There’s a lot of athleticism in business,” she observed. “You tend to find people who are like-minded, want to create value, and want to be creative at the same time.”

Petz pursued sports and student government in high school. As a first year she served as class president for Westhampton College.

The Jepson School was still fairly new when Petz attended orientation. She recalled the professor who welcomed them describing the program’s unique focus: understanding organization, culture, followership, and movement.

“All of those things appealed to me immediately,” she said. “I thought, someone’s talking just to me. I’m meant to be here.”


I’m proud to be part of something that was cutting-edge and to be able to point to many of those experiences as being so formative.
Heidi Petz
President and Chief Operating Officer, Sherwin-Williams

Jepson’s faculty included Learning in Community Settings Program founder Richard Couto. Petz took his critical thinking course, which focused on social movements and offered students opportunities to partner with diverse groups within the local community so they could learn situational leadership. One of Petz’s rotations involved mentoring a fourth-grade student in Richmond.

Petz and her classmates had to adapt their styles to different real-world environments, sometimes well outside their comfort zones, and then discussed their experiences back in the classroom. Friends at UR in other disciplines expressed surprise at her immersive coursework, Petz remembered. “I’m proud to be part of something that was cutting-edge and to be able to point to many of those experiences as being so formative,” she said.

After graduation, she received an MBA from Loyola University Maryland and held marketing, sales, and financial leadership positions at major companies such as Newell Rubbermaid, Target, and PricewaterhouseCoopers. In 2013 she became vice president of marketing for Valspar’s Consumer Group.

Petz rose steadily within the company, which Sherwin-Williams acquired in 2017, from senior vice president of marketing, then president of the Consumer Brands Group, to SVP of sales and marketing for The Americas Group paint stores, and then president of The Americas Group. Now she runs all of the company’s operations, which include The Americas Group paint stores, the global Performance Coatings Group industrial segments, the Consumer Brands Group’s DIY brands, and the Global Supply Chain organization.

She was there when the pandemic put the more than 150-year-old company to the test. Employee safety started and ended each conversation, Petz said. Helping customers was another high priority. Petz said the business moved their paint stores to a curbside model within days.

Switching to a remote work environment also required complex decision-making. Petz admitted that the transition came with a lot of humility as the team figured out how to interact virtually while maintaining the company’s culture. Supply chain crunches added pressure.

Petz drew confidence from her time leading peers at Richmond and responded by listening, asking questions, and actively soliciting feedback from a broad group, including employees on the front lines. Going remote, she found, led to candid discussions and opportunities for informal connections.

“For me to get the best out of my team, it is about my ability to adapt to them. And they do the same,” she said. “But it has to start with my awareness and willingness to meet them where they are.”

When anyone asks Petz, a mother of three, how she manages it all, her advice is to make sure your head and heart are aligned. “Check in with yourself,” she said. “Be honest about what lights you up.”