“I was selling appliances by the time I was 13,” Oberg says. “My father taught me it starts with relationships. Anyone can make a sale, but not everyone can make a customer.” A business built on 70 years of exceptional customer service, Oberg knew the secret to staying afloat would be finding creative ways to recreate the exceptional customer service they were known for – bringing the showroom to clients virtually.
“It was incredibly stressful, but it was critical for us to stay connected with our customers,” she explained. “We were available from 7 AM to 11 PM every day to talk to customers, answer questions and help them get what they needed. Buying an appliance is a very personal experience, and we needed to ensure that the relationship remained core to our business.”
Logistics weren’t the only challenge – Oberg needed financial help. “Every day, I woke up wondering what lay ahead for us,” she notes. “How would I pay utilities and healthcare, keep paying the salaries of my employees and be able to buy the inventory I needed for my customers? I didn’t know what each day would bring.”
When she heard about the federal government’s Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), Oberg’s first call was to her bank. “I’ve only had one bank my whole life,” Oberg emphasizes. “My grandfather always told me, ‘You trust and stay with your bank.’” She credits Karla Yasmin Aguilar, a Bank of America Small Business Banker, with helping her secure a PPP loan to keep employees on payroll and maintain operating expenses.
Oberg also got creative, pivoting operations to keep up with consumer demands. Amid shutdown mandates, Americans were spending more time at home than ever before, triggering off-the-charts appliance usage with many more breaking and needing immediate replacement. To create a new revenue stream and cater to this demand, Oberg updated her business model to also offer free in-home estimates.
Oberg credits her company’s success to not only a heightened demand for appliances, but also customers’ trust in her family-owned business. “People want to get back to knowing who they are dealing with. Because of the health crisis, customers want to trust who is coming into their homes.”
Oberg & Lindquist’s doors are open again and serving customers at the company’s physical location by appointment with safe social distancing. Reflecting on her experience of running a business through a public health crisis, Oberg advises her fellow entrepreneurs to, “Trust what got us here and take it day by day. Running a small business is about sweat, tears and more sweat.”
Looking ahead, Oberg hopes to build state-of-the art showrooms to give her customers an immersive experience, especially as she anticipates the remodeling and luxury appliance markets to grow post-pandemic.
Oberg shares her number one piece of advice to fellow small business owners: “Reputation, reputation, reputation – hold on to it tightly, close to your heart, and protect it every minute when you are serving your community. It’s everything. Never compromise your standards.”