Now he uses his competitive edge to achieve the best results for his business
Cycling and real estate have more in common than you may first think, says Joshua Kersten, co-director of Raine&Horne Wollongong.
“They’re both very competitive and take huge dedication and focus to what you’re doing,” says the 36 year-old.
“Auctioneering is like race day. You have six weeks of preparation for auction and it is very similar to competition ... You are on stage and performing for a result.”
Born and raised in Wollongong, Mr Kersten’s love of bikes started at the age of seven when he took up BMX racing in Canberra, where his family lived while his father completed his valuation diploma.
“I raced BMX for three or four years and I was a state champion at that level,” he says.
After his family moved back to Wollongong, he was involved in athletics before taking up cycling when he was 13.
“My older brother was introduced to cycling through a mate at school. He started track cycling and I took it up not long after that,” he says.
Mr Kersten began training competitively with local junior cyclists at the Illawarra Cycle Club and worked up the ranks during his high school years.
After completing the Higher School Certificate in 1994, he spent a year focusing on the sport and was selected for the Australian junior team, which allowed him to compete at the Junior World Championships in San Marino in Italy in 1995.
The budding cyclist won two gold medals at the Junior World Championships and was also named the 1995 Illawarra Mercury Sports Star of the Year.
It marked the start of his successful career competing with the Australian team at the Australian Institute of Sport.
The following six years saw Mr Kersten travelling all over the world to compete in various championships, including the 1998 Commonwealth Games at Kuala Lumpur where he won a bronze medal.
But in 2000, Mr Kersten decided to retire from professional cycling, after missing out on a place in the Sydney Olympics.
“I trained for four years in the lead-up to that to try to make the games and I didn’t make the squad, so I had to make a decision then,” he says.
“I also met my wife, who was a rower, around the same time and she missed the selection for the same games as well, so we both hit a point where we decided to cut it there and cut our ties.”
Making the transition
Fortunately, the transition to a more normal lifestyle was not a challenge for Mr Kersten, who received a scholarship to study physical education teaching at the Australian College of Physical Education.
“I was offered a job in Sydney by one of my lecturers and I spent four years working with him as an executive personal trainer,” says Mr Kersten.
In 2005, the then 28 year-old made another career change when he moved back to Wollongong to become a real estate agent.
“My father has been in the industry and he owned an office in Wollongong. An opportunity came up to be a partner with him in the real estate business there, which is still Raine&Horne, and I dived into it with no real estate experience whatsoever,” he says.
Mr Kersten adds that the traits he developed in the sport have rolled over into his business.
“Regardless of whether you’re a cyclist or an ex- runner, most athletes find the transition into business a good fit because that commitment and dedication involved in being an athlete are very similar in the business world,” he explains.
As a business owner, he enjoys the mix of running the business, generating sales and dealing with staff.
While Mr Kersten initially felt there might be challenges involved in balancing his relationship with his father on a personal and professional level, it has been smooth sailing for the two men.
“I think it’s worked very well,” Mr Kersten (junior) says. “He’s got a very commercial and industrial focus in the office, whereas I am focused on the residential side.”
His father has not restricted him in any way, he adds, and has allowed him to bring his ideas and perspectives into the office.
“The industry has changed a lot over the years and he’s had to evolve. I’ve also been trained well through the head office at Raine&Horne and they’ve really helped me along the way and spent a lot of time focusing on me,” he says.
Mr Kersten believes he has learned a lot from his father’s 40 years of experience in the field.
“One thing he has taught me is to have patience. Patience is a big thing, and so is taking your losses with your wins,” Mr Kersten says. “Sometimes you win business and sometimes you lose it, but he has always been a fair player and he taught me a lot that way.”
Much like his achievements as a professional cyclist, Mr Kersten has enjoyed success as an agent. He was named the Illawarra Business Chamber’s Young Businessperson of the Year in 2007, and has won the prestigious Raine&Horne Chairman’s Award for outstanding sales results every year since 2008.
“We’ve now employed 20 staff and we’ve grown the business quite substantially in the last eight years,” he says. “We’ve become one of the bigger players in the Illawarra, focusing on a lot of industrial, commercial and residential real estate, but also the management side as well.”
When he is not managing his business, Mr Kersten is juggling his responsibilities as a husband and a father of two children under six years old.
He still cycles but admits not as often as he would like. He is, however, keeping in line with his local roots – Mr Kersten is a manager and sponsor of the Illawarra Academy of Sport.
“I put time into sponsoring young kids under the age of 16 who are going up through the ranks,” he says. “I’ve been the manager for five years now and it takes up most of the year, but I take a bit of a background, organising support role.”
Having been in their shoes when he was younger, Mr Kersten wants the next generation of budding cyclists to simply enjoy the sport.