Get an education. This doesn’t have to be a traditional education or a degree. What I mean is never stop learning. Read, listen to podcasts, attend seminars, pay attention to what other leaders do. Some of the best new ideas are germinated from information or ideas you’ve gotten somewhere else.
I had the pleasure to interview Gretchen Rosenberg the CEO of Kentwood Real Estate
Thank you so much for joining us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
In 1996 I became a single mom to an 18-month-old son. I had been working with my ex-husband’s family in advertising, and obviously needed to move on. I asked myself, “What can I do that combines my business background and my interest in architecture and design, with flexibility, so I can spend time with my son on my terms (like being a parent volunteer) and also having the ability to make a good living?” Real Estate seemed the natural fit. I started in sales and 10 years later became a selling manager of one of our three brokerage offices. Then, 11 years after that, stepped up into the CEO role.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company?
I’ve only been CEO for 7 months, and it’s all been interesting. Learning more about commercial real estate has been a lot of fun. Coming from a residential background, I quickly realized the nuance and pacing of commercial transactions is very different. We’ve had two leases to negotiate for two of our offices and getting that accomplished was a great step forward.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
Less a mistake and more a recognition of inadequacy — When I was a brand-new real estate agent we still handwrote our contracts, generally with our clients sitting next to us. I made a copy of a blank contract and in the lightest pencil possible I filled in the blanks. The first several times I wrote up a contract for clients I would surreptitiously glance at my pencil version that I’d hidden inside a file folder. I didn’t want anyone to think I didn’t know what I was doing!
What that taught me was “fake it ’til you make it” is great advice! It’s ok to invent work-arounds that will accommodate your needs and still fulfill your promise to do a good job.
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
Kentwood Real Estate is an elite team of brokers whose exceptional service, local expertise and deep community roots create a market advantage for clients. Kentwood is also the exclusive Colorado affiliate of Berkshire Hathaway’s HomeServices of America. In 2016, the organizations aligned given their shared core values of trust, integrity, stability and longevity. We believe in doing business the right way. Knowledgably and ethically.
Our brokers’ combination of professionalism, local knowledge and experience has led to sales production records for many years. Our officially reported numbers are now combined with all of the HomeServices brokerages, but when compared toRISMedia Real Estate Magazine’s 2017 Power Broker Survey, Kentwood ranked #1 in Colorado and #4 Nationally for the highest volume sold per associate in 2016.
Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?
We are probably working on too many exciting projects. One that is very exciting is a brand refresh project. We’ve engaged a branding agency that is helping us get to the core of “who” Kentwood is, and “why” we exist. Once that brand story is complete, they’ll help us freshen up our logo. My one caveat is that I don’t want the consumer to have to completely relearn our brand visually. For sale signs are an important marketing tool, and when people drive by our signs, I want them to recognize Kentwood. Someone told me yesterday, “I see your signs everywhere!”
What advice would you give to other female leaders to help their team to thrive?
I tend not to pay attention to whether other leaders are male or female, and I’d say to everyone, “Do your job well, be open to new things, new ideas, be yourself, and leverage the strengths of your whole team.”
What advice would you give to other female leaders about the best way to manage a large team?
Keep on top of your direct reports and trust them to manage their teams. Give them positive feedback, and also provide them with critical feedback, i.e. opportunities for growth. Make sure everyone is rowing the boat together by keeping the shared vision, and the strategy to get to that vision, front and center.
It’s easy to get caught up in the tyranny of immediacy. If everyone on the team isn’t carving out time to work on the company’s actual goals, 5 pm will arrive every day without moving the ball forward.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
There are many people I’m grateful to, and without a posse of supporters, no one can really excel.
Our current Chairman and past CEO, Peter Niederman, has been a friend and mentor for over a decade. He’s probably taught me more about business than I learned in graduate school. Peter took me under his wing and helped polish my leadership skills.
Julie Hummel, one of our company’s former owners before Peter bought the company, always believed in me, and is a vocal advocate for female leadership. Julie encouraged me to strive for my goals, and to believe I could get there.
My parents: My mother was herself a strong leader and is a former business owner. Her grandfather was the founder of the Miss America Pageant, but she discouraged me from being a cheerleader in high school because, “Girls don’t stand on the sidelines cheering for the boys. They go play the game too.” My father is one of the most compassionate people I know, and he taught me that everyone counts.
There are many other meaningful people — because it takes a village.
How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
I raised a very smart and good-hearted son who is now working as an Environmental Analyst. Hopefully, he and his colleagues can help us build more sustainably in the future.
I’m also on the Board of a fantastic organization called HomeAid Colorado. There are chapters in many cities, and the mission is to be a part of the solution for the crisis of homelessness. HomeAid works in conjunction with charities that serve the homeless, and the home building community, to build shelter for homeless families, veterans, step-up housing needs and the developmentally disadvantaged so they won’t become homeless.
What are your “5 Leadership Lessons I Learned From My Experience” and why. (Please share a story or example for each.)
1. Get an education. This doesn’t have to be a traditional education or a degree. What I mean is never stop learning. Read, listen to podcasts, attend seminars, pay attention to what other leaders do. Some of the best new ideas are germinated from information or ideas you’ve gotten somewhere else.
2. Don’t let people delegate up. Most leaders are problem solvers, so it’s very easy to fall into the trap of solving other’s problems for them. It’s so much easier and faster to just get it done yourself! But it’s not sustainable if you want to lead an organization, company or department.
3. Tell people when they’re leaning the ladder against the wrong wall. When you observe a colleague going in the wrong direction, let them know. Also ask questions about why they’re going about it that way in case there’s information you’re missing. Ultimately, if you believe they’re heading off in the wrong direction, guide them back, don’t ignore it.
4. Master conflict. I say this because I tend to be a conflict avoider. So I’m reminding myself of this lesson.
5. Focus. From The 4 Disciplines of Execution by Chris McChesney, Sean Covey and Jim Huling: “There will always be more good ideas than there is the capacity to execute.” Read this fantastic book for a deeper understanding of their management theory. This advice is hard to do when you’re in a new role and it feels like you’re trying to build a plane while you’re also trying to fly the plane.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
Solve climate change. The earth is our home, let’s help the impassioned preservation committees of scientists and policy makers figure out solutions.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
Quotes come and go for me, depending on where I am in my head and in my life. My current inspiration is Helen Keller who said, “Optimism is the faith that leads to achievement. Nothing can be done without hope and confidence.” I’ve always considered myself an optimist, and a person who looks for the good in every situation and person. I was once told that’s borne of naivete, but Helen Keller’s amazing life and her faith that optimism leads to achievement is validation of my own optimism and hope.
Another quote I tend to keep in my head (and I don’t know who originally said it,) is “Are you a problem maker or a problem solver?” This one is helpful when evaluating people; Members of our team, a person whose company we may do business with or in situations where there are transactional issues one of our agents is having.
How can our readers follow you on social media?
I’ve been so busy in my new role, that I’ve fallen off social. Kentwood Real Estate’s website is www.Kentwood.com, we also blog about local happenings in Denver and the Denver market. We’re on Facebook and Instagram, and I have an Instagram that’s largely been ignored of late. I hope to find more time for that soon.