Debbie Beier had worked in the home mortgage industry for several years before joining GSF Mortgage Corp. eight years ago.
The contrast between GSF Mortgage and Beier's previous employer, industry giant Countrywide Financial Corp., was apparent from the first day.
"I like the ability to sit down with the president of the company and be able to make a decision," said Beier, GSF Mortgage general manager. "And being able to do that without going through the red tape."
GSF Mortgage, founded in 1995, has expanded operations to 25 states in part by providing a supportive atmosphere for its 230 employees, including 60 employees at the Brookfield headquarters, said Chad Jampedro, president.
"We realize that this business is cyclical," Jampedro said. "The intensity ramps up when our volume ramps up. When that occurs, the stress level increases."
By providing proper training and support, GSF Mortgage helps employees better handle those stressful periods, he said.
The mortgage lender is known for its close-knit environment, Beier said.
"I like the fact that most of our employees have been in the industry for a long time," she said. "We just know each other and understand the business. A lot of people have family members who work in their branch location."
Again, that's a contrast with Countrywide. It was the nation's largest mortgage lender and had 60,000 employees before it was sold to Bank of America Corp. in 2008 -- just as the housing market was collapsing.
Beier came to GSF Mortgage "as the industry was kind of falling apart," she said.
"I thought, if I am going to stick in the mortgage industry, I would rather go to a smaller company with more local presence," Beier said.
GSF Mortgage's employees have a work ethic that is stronger than what Beier has seen at other mortgage lenders.
"They will volunteer if they're off for the day to still read their emails at home," Beier said. "They are very dedicated to their job. I think that comes from the top down. They see all the managers getting their elbows dirty."
That was echoed by Alyssa Schwabe, GSF Mortgage's marketing manager.
"It is a very transparent company," said Schwabe, who's worked there since 2014. "Upper management always cares about everybody here. ... You never have to think you're alone on an island here."
Jampedro started at GSF Mortgage in 2001 as a loan originator, and was named president in 2013.
He previously worked with National City Mortgage Co., among the nation's largest mortgage lenders. GSF Mortgage's smaller size is an advantage when it comes to creating a good workplace, he said.
"We know all of our employees personally," Jampedro said.