Family Kitchen and Bath Firm Builds on Tradition

by WOHe

Family Kitchen and Bath Firm Builds on
Tradition

By Daina Darzin Manning


Lindquist and Co. has been a cooperative affair for years which
aligns perfectly with principal designer Rebecca Gullion
Lindquist’s approach to kitchens. 

Lindquist always knew she wanted to be a kitchen designer the
instant she was introduced to the idea, back when she was still in
college. “I was so enticed by this whole concept of kitchen
design,” she remembers. “All my life, I’ve liked to put things
together I started designing sewing projects when I was quite
young. So. I found it fascinating how kitchens came together all of
these possibilities. [I love to work with] all of these little
pieces and parts that once assembled would result in this room that
truly is the heart of a home, and that has such a dynamic effect on
how a family functions and interacts in their space
[together].” 

There was no formal training in kitchen design during
those pre-NKBA program times, so Lindquist designed her own
curriculum to get the education she needed, and promptly found a
summer intern position at a local kitchen shop. That company later
hired her, launching Lindquist’s now 20+-year career. 

A few years and jobs later, Lindquist was hired by her mentor in
a well-known, top quality shop in her area. “This business has been
here since the early sixties,” Lindquist explains. “It’s one of the
older kitchen centers in the country, and it’s been in the same
location for almost 38 years.”

Successful Succession
Ten
years ago, Lindquist and her husband took over the business when
the original owner decided to pursue other interests. “It was a
wonderful opportunity and a win-win situation,” she recalls. “Their
family business could go on and prosper under new ownership, and
that made it easier for [the former owner] to move on.”

The advantage of taking over a successful and well-known
business, coupled with Lindquist’s own following of clients and a
strong referral base, led to a smooth transition. “The business has
continued to grow each year,” she notes. 

Her unique situation including the fact that her name was part
of the company monicker for several years prior to her taking over
the business enabled Lindquist to avoid large start-up marketing
costs; most of her work still comes by referral. “It was part of a
long-range plan,” she explains. 

That plan included her husband joining the business. “He left
his career a year after we took over the business to support me,”
she says “We have a family and we needed better balance in our
lives. For both of us to work in the same business gave us more
flexibility.” 

The Lindquists have well-defined roles which enable the business
to function as efficiently as possible. “I’m the idea person, the
primary designer and salesperson for our business,” she elaborates.
“I oversee all our projects from start to finish, do all the
consultation with our clients. I also oversee [all of] the
marketing aspects of our business. He has a better background in
finance, and took over the day-to-day operations as well as
everyday project management. He oversees the bookkeeping and
insurance as well, and oversees and manages our construction
projects, [including] purchasing.”

Though the Lindquists use subcontractors for construction
projects, “we offer our clients project management,” she says. “So
the tradespeople are brought in to do the work, and we manage the
tradespeople on behalf of our clients.”

Currently, her company handles as many as 30 projects in various
stages of completion, from budgeting to final installation, with no
more than six remodeling projects actually under construction at
any given time. In addition, the company will simultaneously take
on a few new construction projects: “They’re less demanding than a
major renovation project,” she says.

Staying Small
Lindquist adds that she’s
deliberately kept the company small about a million dollars in
business a year. “We find we have better control over our projects
that way,” she notes. The company currently has a waiting list of
clients and could expand if the desire was there. But Lindquist
emphasizes, “We approach each project on a one-to-one basis with
our clients, and try to deliver service that makes them feel like
they’re the only ones we’re working with, and give them exceptional
attention to detail,” aspects of the business that she believes
might get lost in a larger operation.

While Lindquist doesn’t want to grow the firm too fast, she is a
member of SEN (Signature Executive Network), a national buying and
industry networking group that gives her “big-firm buying power,”
without losing the advantages of a small, personalized firm. “The
hardest thing about smaller businesses in our industry, is that
we’re isolated in our marketplaces,” she notes. “We don’t have the
opportunity to talk to our competition, because we all want to keep
our trade secrets.” The national organization enables her to share
marketing and system ideas with other independent kitchen and bath
dealers, which Lindquist says has contributed to her company’s
continued success over the years. 

Unlike many in the industry, Lindquist insists she has no
problem in finding qualified workers. “Our tradespeople are one of
the most valuable assets that we have in our business,” she
declares. In fact, she points out, “We find that good tradespeople
seek us out. We run a very well-organized, detailed business, and
our projects have a reputation for being well-designed and
thorough. This has evolved over the years I was fortunate to
connect with some good tradespeople 20 years ago, when this
industry was much simpler. As the industry has grown, and I’ve
grown professionally, my tradespeople have grown right beside me
we’ve evolved together.”

In recent years, Lindquist reveals that, “I’ve become much more
rigid about what I will and won’t do.” For instance, previously, if
a homeowner had an electrician or plumber he or she wanted to work
with on a project, Lindquist would acquiesce. “Now,” she notes,
“I’m more apt to say, ‘if you want to take complete responsibility
for the plumber coordinating, scheduling you’re welcome to do that,
but, if you want us to handle 

that aspect of your project, we [absolutely] require that you
work with our tradespeople.’ For us to deliver the type of
professional service that people expect from us, we need to have
tradespeople who are willing to work with us and follow through on
things and that only comes from long-term, [established]
relationships.”

Partnerships and sharing of 

talents and skills are also key to the firm’s success. For
example, Lindquist admits that she is less enamored of the
increasingly high-tech orientation of the kitchen design business
“I’m technologically illiterate,” she laughs but luckily, her
design assistant is “a wiz” on AUTOCAD and handles all computer
graphics for the company. 

Similarly, Lindquist’s young showroom manager/assistant project
manager grew up with technology and handles other high-tech chores
for the company, allowing Lindquist to focus on what she does best.
“I trust her in those areas. I know what I do well, and I’ve
learned to delegate the other things. You have to pick what you can
and can’t do. One of my greatest successes is surrounding myself
with good people.”

This approach allows Lindquist to focus on her lifelong passion:
design. “I’m working for my client,” she explains. “Somewhere early
on in the project relationship, we need to establish the language
of design an interpretation of their tastes, their lifestyle, what
they want to accomplish. As the designer, I’m then beholden to help
them achieve their design goals. They rely on me [as a
professional] to ensure that their project will meet the criteria
for good design but the project [should] also reflect their taste
not mine. The most important aspect of any project is truthful
communication you have to be on the same page with your
client.”

Lindquist makes a point of explaining her philosophy when
meeting with clients, stating, “I emphasize to my clients that a
simple project, installed extremely well, will give them much more
return on their investment than extravagant products that are
installed poorly.” She adds, “It’s a better investment to invest in
good craftsmanship. Embellishment can always be added later.”

Lindquist concludes, “I think we’re held to a higher standard
than other companies in our market place,” because of the company’s
long-term standing in the community and its reputation. For
Lindquist, the standards that her clients hold her to are her own,
however, and as she adds, “We need to make sure we always deliver
on them.”

Lindquist and Co.

LOCATION: Duluth, MN
PRINCIPALS: Rebecca Gullion Lindquist, CKD, CBD,
and Robert Lindquist, co-owners 
EMPLOYEES: 2
SHOWROOMS: 1, 1,200 sq. ft. plus 600 sq. ft.
office space 
HOURS OF OPERATION: Mon. – Fri., 8:30 a.m. -5
p.m., evenings and Saturdays by appointment
MAJOR PRODUCT LINES: WoodMode and Brookhaven
cabinetry, Jay Rambo cabinetry. 
DESIGN SOFTWARE: AUTOCAD 
SPECIALTY: Fully designed and completed turnkey
renovation projects, offering full service from the onset of budget
development to turnkey completion.
BUSINESS PHILOSOPHY: “One of my greatest successes
is surrounding myself with good people. I think we’re held to a
higher standard than other companies in our market place, so we
need to make sure we deliver.”

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