West Allis-based National Business Furniture recently named Marcelo Podesta as its new president. Bringing more than a decade of management experience in the retail and furniture industries, Podesta takes over his new leadership role as the COVID-19 pandemic changes how and where people work. In a recent interview with BizTimes Milwaukee reporter Maredithe Meyer, Podesta discussed his plans for the company amid industry disruption.
Goals for the company
“Due to COVID-19 and the changing habits of how businesses and people are working in today’s world, we have a really critical opportunity to shape the new normal of how workspaces are going to be set up. We obviously have a history of having a strong catalog and then over the years, we’ve bolted on outside and inside sales force teams, and of course, our website. The challenge for us is how do we create a seamless experience across all of these channels and interaction points, so that we can be there for customers however they choose to engage? Rallying everybody behind that notion of a customer-centric approach is critical for us.
“At the same time, our education vertical is critically important in these times. We are closely connected with teachers and educational institutions to understand the protocols they are using, and in some cases we’re helping them establish a proper protocol to get students back in school. Everybody’s needing flexible furniture that can quickly be rearranged based on whatever the circumstances.”
Meeting new demand
“There’s been a huge surge in demand for plexiglass, visual signage, cleaning supplies, hand sanitizers, and our team is really skilled at being able to secure great prices and assortments that are truly relevant to our customers. It’s not only the product. A lot of times it’s also a solution, which requires a little bit of help and assistance from our sales team to put together a solution for each client.
“And we’ve been doing all of this remotely, too. Most of our employees are working from their houses. We’ve always invested in our employees and their resources that they have to be able to work remotely, and we’re pretty flexible ourselves, so it wasn’t such a big deal for us in that sense. But obviously, there were some other organizations that were not prepared, so we were also able to help them in that transition.”
Home office trends
“I think the notion of working from home was not something that was foreign to many, but maybe it was once a week or a couple days a month. Now, it’s a month at a time. Obviously, the needs have evolved. And it’s not an afterthought — it’s where you spend the majority of time within your house, so the space planning within your house is really trending toward having an office or maybe two per household. Our assortment for home office and small office products has completely outperformed our expectations since COVID started.”