Stephen RosenbergCreativity and hard work are common in successful companies, but growth, innovation, and industry leadership take something more.

“We have a culture that is the fuel behind our drive and success. Everyone knows our mission is to help people. Everything we talk about is how we can help others, and that applies internally as well as externally,” says Stephen Rosenberg, founder and chief executive officer (CEO) of Greystone.

As CEO, Rosenberg is responsible for the coordination and management of corporate matters. He founded Greystone in 1988 as an independent investment banking firm and has since developed it into a mature commercial real estate investment firm with a national reputation as the No. 1 Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) lender to the health care sector (as well as multifamily). It’s hard to believe now that Rosenberg’s first office was in the back room of a friend’s music store.

But those early days came with some strong lessons. Rosenberg recalls, “I definitely learned that fear is a strong motivator. When you have a family to feed, there is no such thing as 9 to 5.” Rosenberg has never forgotten his early days and the lessons he learned as an entrepreneur. “Over the years, we’ve figured out how to do things that others aren’t focused on, and we’ve figured out a way to make things profitable,” he says.

A huge part of this is customer service, and Rosenberg and his team put customers’ interests first. “Their success is our success. Magic really happens when you put others’ interests in front of your own,” he says.

The Call of Culture

The company’s culture has supported and driven its business for decades, and it shapes the way they work every day. While Greystone has grown and evolved over the years, the company’s values haven’t changed, Rosenberg says. “Our culture remains the engine of our business. It is how we attract and retain the best talent and stand out from the competition.” He notes, “Culture is a big motivator and magnet for all good people, not just millennials.”

Four standards define how Greystone works, how the company connects with their customers, and how they engage with the community: integrity, excellence, entrepreneurship, and caring.

Greystone’s corporate culture actually is an extension of Rosenberg’s family’s beliefs and behaviors. He says, “Like many people, I was held to very high standards by my loving parents. Of utmost importance was treating others with respect and dignity, lifting others, and enhancing lives whenever the opportunity arose.”

He recalls that growing up, he and his father would go to the grocery store and buy groceries for older people and others in the area who were struggling. “The sensitivity and caring they showed for people, many of whom were strangers, had a real impact on me.”

Living the Culture

Rosenberg honored his family and the values they instilled in him by establishing the Murray & Sydell Rosenberg Foundation, Greystone’s philanthropic arm with a mission to alleviate suffering. The Foundation attempts to both identify and address the most acute needs of those who are otherwise disempowered and neglected. Areas of focus include humanitarian aid, education, community enhancement, and health care.

“My deepest sense of satisfaction involves the thousands of lives we have impacted, the families in dire straits we’ve been able to help,” says Rosenberg. An important aspect of this, he stresses, is the ability to provide the help quietly and as respectfully as possible.

“We are all in this together,” he says. “I don’t believe the financial resources belong to me. I tell each family that we are honored to partner with them.” He adds, “I’m receiving so much more back than we give.”

Greystone’s Annual Day of Service is another way the organization lives its culture. This company-wide event reflects charity and camaraderie, two pillars of the company’s culture. Each year, Greystone offices close for one day so that employees can volunteer their time for a local cause. “This is a popular program. People are wired to help others. There is no greater pleasure than lending a hand to someone else,” Rosenberg says.

Doing good work quietly is important to Rosenberg. He says, “You’ll never see our name on a building or anything like that. We like to help in situations where people have run out of options and have nowhere else to turn.” If he has the ability to solve a problem, he’ll do it without the fanfare.

Changing Face of The Industry

Rosenberg and his team have been consistent in their efforts to serve customers and make a positive difference in the lives of people in need. But they have seen changes in the industry. For instance, he says, “Borrowers are somewhat more educated about debt products. People are better informed, which is good news. Knowledge is power.”

The challenges of the pandemic have been motivators for growth, Rosenberg suggests. “When the deck is being shuffled, you can’t rely on all the same old tricks. There are opportunities to leap forward with personal and professional growth.” This isn’t always easy. As he says, “Mixing things up can cause tremendous discomfort, but it’s also an opportunity for positive change. You need to face the challenges and think about how you can be better moving forward.”

Rosenberg is proud of his business success. “There is a competitive side to me,” he admits, adding, “I like to win, and I am very happy that we are the No. 1 commercial HUD lender in the country. I am proud of what we’ve accomplished, but nowhere near satisfied. There is much more we can do, and we’re excited about the opportunities for the future.”

Prior to joining Greystone, Stephen Rosenberg was a national director with Dean Witter Reynolds. He has a DMD degree from the University of Pennsylvania School of Dentistry and an MBA from the Wharton School. ​