When she became pregnant more than two decades ago, Gretchen Rosenberg remembers having it all figured out. “I wanted a boy born on December 8,” she says matter-of-factly, then adds with a smile, “I did have a boy, but I missed it by one day. Joe was born on the seventh.”
Seated in a glass-lined conference room at the almost-completed new headquarters for Kentwood Real Estate in the Denver Tech Center, Rosenberg explains that December 8 was her birthday and her father’s as well. So it made sense to continue the tradition.
That sort of self-assurance comes as no surprise from the president/CEO of a major firm such as Kentwood. Yet, with an easy grin and unassuming air, Rosenberg doesn’t project a controlling personality. Yes, Kentwood has around 230 agents, plus a support staff that keeps things humming at three branch offices. It’s a big job, one she’s held for less than a year, yet it’s easy to see that she already feels quite grounded.
“If you let your ego get in the way, you become ineffective,” she says. “I feel humble to be where I am.” Referring to her huge roster of agents—all independent contractors—Rosenberg defines their relationship in simple terms. “I’m here to be a resource, to help them.”
Her rise to the top of Kentwood completes a steady journey toward success. Born in Ohio and raised in southern California, Rosenberg settled in Colorado in 1982 and enrolled in the University of Denver, where she received a bachelor’s in international studies, followed by a MBA in 1989. That year she married and soon began working for her in-laws’ ad agency. Their son arrived, almost on Gretchen’s prediction, in late 1994.
But then things went south. The couple divorced in 1996, their home was sold and Rosenberg began a new life as a single mother with an 18-month-old.
“I knew that my next job would require flexibility, so I could be with my son as he started school. I wanted to be able to go on midday field trips with his class.” Realizing that she liked people and was interested in architecture (her father studied architecture before medical school) she enrolled at a real estate school just prior to her separation, completing her studies the same year. But what then? Simple—she called Mike Rubridge, the agent who’d sold the Harrisons’ their first home, and asked if she could work for him. “From the start, I knew I liked it. I wanted to work hard.”
Just as she knew when her son would be born, Rosenberg could see what was next in her life. “I needed colleagues,” she says, and so she left Rubridge and joined with Moore Premier Properties in 1998—a move she describes as “a huge life decision.” Soon after her arrival, Moore changed hands, and its Cherry Creek agents broke off to start the Kentwood Company’s Cherry Creek office, with Rosenberg as one of the office’s founding brokers. While finding success selling a mix of move-up and luxury properties, she knew that she wanted to move into management. That change came in 2006, when she was named manager of the Cherry Creek office and its 50 brokers and staff. The office grew to 70 brokers in the following years.
In addition to raising a son and managing one of Kentwood’s offices, Rosenberg continued to sell homes—but after 22 years, she was ready to move up. Her sales career ended in early 2018, when Kentwood’s CEO Peter Niederman decided to focus on other projects and moved into the Chairman position. Niederman had sold the company to Warren Buffet’s HomeServices of America, an affiliate of Berkshire Hathaway, in the summer of 2016. With the change of Niederman’s role in the company, she was named his successor.
She may have arrived at a career end-point, she suggests. “I’d really never want to leave Kentwood. We’re such a great company. I was ready for a new challenge, but not with a different company.”
Despite her impressive title, Kentwood’s president/CEO still sees herself as simply one member of a team—“not bigger or more important. I’m a steward of the company. I’m just me.” She still has time to visit her parents and her son in southern California. Joe Harrison is nearly 24 and an analyst with an environmental consulting and engineering firm in San Diego.
Even in an age when women are assuming more positions of importance in the corporate world, Rosenberg understands that a female in charge can still attract extra attention—a notion that she dismisses quickly. “I’ve fortunately never had a #MeToo moment and I don’t live my life with a chip on my shoulder. I have a very strong mother who exemplified female leadership for me and my sister.”
A smile of contentment crosses her face. “This is really fun, and very rewarding. I’m 55. I have a lot of years to go,” she says. Not that she’s standing still. When the National Association of Realtors established an international program, Denver was assigned India as a partner. Rosenberg served as NAR’s India ambassador in 2015, and visited the country three times between 2006 and 2015 to be a presenter at their national real estate conference.
From a single mother with a toddler to the head of a major company, Rosenberg views her busy, productive life as a natural result of combining hard work with a positive self-awareness. Heading off to begin a day’s work amid the construction workers’ hammering and sawing at Kentwood’s DTC offices, she shares some inspiring words from Helen Keller: “Optimism is the faith that leads to achievement.”
Kentwood Real Estate DTC
4949 S. Niagara St., Suite 400
Denver, CO 80237
Kentwood Real Estate at Cherry Creek
215 St. Paul St., Suite 200
Denver, CO 80206
Kentwood Real Estate LoDo
1660 17th St., Suite 100
Denver, CO 80202
Marc Shulgold served as music/dance writer at the Rocky Mountain News for 22 years. Prior to that, he worked at the music desk of the Los Angeles Times for 12 years. During those 34 years, he sold three of his homes—alas, none of them through Kentwood. Next time, he’ll give Gretchen a call.
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