November 2020

Safeguarding a legacy for the fourth generation

Here’s an interesting story about how a New Jersey retailer — with a woman at the helm — reinvented itself during the coronavirus.

Oberg & Lindquist, a New Jersey-based home appliance retailer, has thrived as a family business for three generations. Debra Oberg, the company’s first female president, knows how rare it is for a small business to survive for as long as her family’s has. But when the coronavirus hit, she learned overnight that the way Oberg & Lindquist had done business for more than 70 years would need to fundamentally change.

To keep their customers, Oberg knew they’d have to find some way of recreating the exceptional customer service they were known for, but do it outside the showroom.

In just a few weeks, Oberg & Lindquist had to transition from a showroom-based store to an exclusively online retailer. That forced Oberg and her team to adapt to a drastically different operating model. All customer inquiries and issues were now conducted via telephone calls and video chats, while in-person deliveries had to keep moving with added safety protocols.

It wasn’t just logistics that proved to be a challenge. Oberg needed financial help, badly. “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 Aquilar, a Bank of America small business relationship manager, with helping her through the PPP loan application process.

With New Jersey’s phased reopening plan, Oberg & Lindquist’s doors are open again, and Oberg and her team are serving customers in person, though only by appointment. What has the experience of seeing her business through a public health crisis taught her? “We all have to trust what got us here and take it day by day,” she notes. “Running a small business is about sweat, tears and more sweat.”

Learn about how Bank of America is supporting Women’s Small Business Month.

A note from your Small Business Specialist: To discuss your business goals, set aside some time for a telephone call.

MAP3273431 | 10/2020