What did you think you would “be” at high school?
I always felt that I would work in a business or banking type of role, I studied commerce throughout high school and had a strong interest in business.
What was your first senior role in business?
It was as Regional Manager working in government, I was responsible for running branches in the Hunter and Mid Coast.
You worked at length at Wesley Mission. What were the key things you learnt?
The work of Wesley Mission is far reaching, one of their values was ‘leadership founded on servanthood’ and like other nonprofit organisations the work we did was serving needs. Working with marginalised people in our communities is very rewarding and I was blessed to work with caring and selfless people. I learnt how even simple interventions can make a huge difference to people’s lives.
Your first CEO role was for the employment and recruitment company A4e Australia. How challenging was it and what do you think your legacy was?
The role was exciting as it was a complete start up in Australia. I had challenges such as leading a tender team across Australia and the UK, winning contracts, establishing branches and teams; leading the successful acquisition of two companies and then blending three workplace cultures into one. My legacy was certainly bringing this international company into Australia and growing it from a standing start to a $40m turnover business in just 3.5 years.
My legacy was certainly bringing this international company into Australia and growing it from a standing start to a $40m turnover business in just 3.5 years.Shula Kentwell
In 2013 what led you to join the family business Kenterprise, which you founded earlier with your husband Allan Kentwell and son Mark?
It was on a family holiday to Bali with my kids and my grandson when I was had a moment where I thought “I want to spend more time with my family, they are far too important to me.” I had been travelling constantly and I wanted to return to working in Newcastle. My son Mark asked me to a health check on the business so I did and I discovered the business needed a restructure and there were some opportunities being missed. I enjoyed the contribution I was making to the family business so I accepted the role of CEO.
In what shape did you find the real estate agencies?
They were running well however our growth was stifled mainly due to having outgrown our office spaces. In my first year we relocated both our Newcastle and Warners Bay operations to much larger premises which enabled us to rapidly grow our workforce. Other focusses were on improving our property management division and restructuring our sales support functions to enable better career pathways for our team.
Your son Mark has a reputation for being progressive at PRDnationwide Newcastle & Lake Macquarie. What sort of innovation is in the pipeline?
Mark and I work really well together, he is the face of our company and our brand, he is an exceptional selling principal and leader. He drives industry specific innovation not only in our business but sets benchmarks that others in the industry follow. Our plans for refinement and expansion continue with our project marketing division Newcastle New Projects and in addition to our Newcastle and Lake Macquarie offices we will soon be opening another one in New Lambton.
There is concern that youth can’t get a foothold into the market unless their parents help them. What is the answer?
First home buyers can get their foot in the door with some ‘out of the box’ thinking. Co-borrowing is just on option, it’s not always parents who need to be a significant contributor, but it could also be a sibling, an extended family member or even a trusted friend. Another growing trend for entering the market is ‘rentvesting’ which involves purchasing an investment property in a growth-belt suburb, and renting where your work and lifestyle is. Another option is off the plan purchasing, where you pay a deposit and during the construction and settlement period, you have time to continue saving.
Why did you build pathways in PRD for women?
I believe the future is bright for women in real estate and my wish is for all women to have the opportunity to aim high within the industry if they have the talent and desire. Women shouldn’t be underestimated in real estate. They are becoming a powerful presence and being a woman can be a real advantage.
Your biggest mentor?
The chairman on A4e Australia, Mike Gordon had a massive impact on my development as a CEO. A great mentor has your back, they don’t sugar coat feedback as they want you to succeed, Mike was that person for me.
What career advice do you have for women?
Go for every opportunity presented to you! Many women enter sectors in administrative roles because they do not have the confidence to lead. There is a perception that there is a lack of leadership and strong women role models in industries including real estate; my suggestion is to find yourself a good role model to support you.