When Nashville native Marley Lentz arrived for a marketing internship at Chattanooga's Office Furniture Warehouse in 2016, he was handed a "to-do" list by the boss to complete during his time with the company.
"I think we probably knocked it out in a couple of days," says Lentz, who immediately began looking for other ways to help the business.
Lentz, who was later given a full-time position, has a mind like a searchlight. He is constantly looking for new ways to market the company, which specializes in new and re-purposed office furniture.
"People typically don't know what they need when it comes to promotion," says the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga graduate. "It's a lot easier to see something than to articulate."
In his four years on the job, Lentz has ascended to the rank of director of mind control at Office Furniture Warehouse, a quirky title that he likes because it speaks to the bandwidth of his duties.
"I wear lots of hats," he says. "Lots of hats."
To anyone who would balk at the title, Lentz says it's just his way of remembering to have fun at work.
"I'm not here to take myself too seriously," he says.
At 27, Lentz has a lot of responsibility on his shoulders. Lentz and his wife, Brittany Clifford, have two children with health challenges.
Lentz says being the principal breadwinner for his family helped him get his "stuff together" after being a self-described "ne'er-do-well" during his earlier years in Nashville.
Lentz is in charge of strategic and tactical marketing work for Office Furniture Warehouse, which is headquartered in a warehouse near Amnicola Highway. During his time at the company, Lentz has helped upgrade the company's website with a focus on search engine optimization. In four years, organic traffic has increased 400 percent, he says.
At the same time, he has tried to be a champion for top-tier customer service, too.
"The best experiences for a brand are human experiences," he says. "You can have real hot social media and the best website in the game, but the second your customer service is poor, you lose all the credibility that flashy stuff gives you."
Marketing an office furniture company is challenging because desks and chairs are not routine purchases, he says. In the furniture business, customer relationships are built over decades, not days.
"It's nobody's job to buy office furniture," Lentz says. "Oh, you might have somebody in a procurement office at BlueCross, but nobody is required to have the knowledge to coordinate huge [office furniture] transactions."
As a local, bricks-and-mortar company, Lentz says its important that Office Furniture Warehouse educate potential customers on its full spectrum of services, so they don't just default to big e-commerce options such as Amazon or Wayfair.
"That's not something we take offense to," Lentz says. "But, hey, you don't have the quality assurance of our manufacturers, and you don't have any type of service assurance."
Since the COVID-19 pandemic put a dent in sales, Lentz says the company has pivoted some to home office solutions and retrofitting offices for social distancing options, such as installing Plexiglas shields on existing desks.
"A lot of people are going to want to move gradually," he says. " We are just trying to help people make safe decisions."
* Position: Director of Mind Control, Office Furniture Warehouse
* Education: Graduate of University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, business management
* Family: Wife, Brittany Clifford; two children