Winning Together with Costello Real Estate and Investments!
Nelvia Bullock, Director of Culture
Written by Heather Pluard
Select photos by Kelly Klemmensen Photography
“Winning Together” is more than a slogan at Costello Real Estate Investments. They’re words the brokerage lives by. Already known for having one of the most diverse employee groups in the industry, Costello REI took its commitment to diversity and inclusion one step further last year and created a Director of Culture position in the first quarter of 2020. Then the firm tapped one of its most exceptional, award-winning agents, REALTOR® Nelvia Bullock, to fill the leadership role. Little did Nelvia know, she would soon help usher her company through an unprecedentedly challenging year, at the end of which Costello REI would be one of Charlotte Business Journal’s Top Ten Residential Brokerages.
“I’m so proud of everything we accomplished this year as a company,” Nelvia says. “It’s an honor to serve as the Director of Culture because I care so much about the individual agent experience at Costello REI. We encourage and celebrate individuality here. Voices are heard and applauded. We are vocal about our care and concern when it comes to social injustice, we take action on important community matters, and we always pay it forward to the communities we serve.”
With a winning workplace culture already in place, Nelvia’s new role organically evolved to enhance Costello REI’s atmosphere of inclusion and foster a positive experience for every broker. “I work with the leadership team behind the scenes on our mission, values, ethics, and goals to make sure everything we do is aligned with winning together,” Nelvia explains. “We are also very intentional about promoting and supporting our team members within the brokerage. Our agents want to be groomed by other successful agents and be part of a collaborative community that fosters innovation, mentorship, and education. This type of behavior is a best practice at Costello REI. My focus is just harnessing and spreading the creative energy.”
While Nelvia kept her focus steady throughout 2020, the pandemic quickly changed how Costello REI operated. “In regular times, we held weekly in-person meetings at least twice a week,” Nelvia says. “We gathered for coffee and conversation with our Broker in Charge, held mixers, participated in impactful community service, client appreciation events, motivational speakers series, and so much more. Having to pivot quickly to functioning completely virtual was different because we are such a collaborative group. However, it’s been really good for us at the same time. We shifted our priorities back to the basics, ensuring that we equip our agents to offer exceptional service and be a trusted resource for their clientele. We increased our investments in technology, marketing, training, and leadership to protect our most valuable assets—our people. While most brokerages took a moment to dial it back, we intentionally created more vehicles for our agents to win together.”
That included restructuring their commission plan and reducing the split to 80/20. “Our goal is to be more intentional with additional revenue avenues for our agents, support the growth of our agents on all levels, and deepen the relationships and opportunities beyond the transaction,” explains John Costello, President of Costello Real Estate and Investments.
“Overall, we worked diligently to make sure our agents would survive the pandemic and come out on the other side of it stronger than before,” Nelvia says. “Every move we make is strategic to ensure agent wellbeing. When we see opportunities to augment these efforts outside of the workplace, we act on them. In the past, we’ve created special interests groups to foster stronger relationships with agents across the brokerage—forming social committees, a women’s initiative, singles groups, community networking teams, mastermind groups, pet owners groups, and more. We also bring in a dynamic speaker annually to help harness that greatness within our team. Individual agent development is crucial to our success, and we like to have fun and collaborate as a team as much as possible.”
When a new agent joins the firm, Costello REI intentionally welcomes them to the brokerage family and connects them to all of their support channels. “In my role as Director of Culture, I personally see to it that new agents connect with like-minded team members from day one and leverage our training and marketing. This is critical for continued growth, engagement, and success. While we are all 1099 employees on paper, we have an internal culture that emulates a family-like environment versus the feel of an office setting. Coming from one of Silicon Valley’s most admired employers, I felt the same energy right here in Charlotte the day I walked into Costello REI’s door. I want to preserve it as much as possible because it’s quite special.”
Core values, including Prioritize Relationships, Encourage Diversity, Embrace Technology, Inspire Self Development, and Deliver Quality Results, will remain Costello REI’s focal points this year. Other top priorities are building stronger touch-points within agent recruitment, deeper engagement for company-wide events, and implementing wellness initiatives.
“My vision is to develop a roadmap for agents that accelerates their growth and development while simultaneously increasing our reach and impact,” Nelvia says. “We are focused on aligning with charitable causes for social good in the communities we serve, like our previous partnership with Give Back Homes. In 2020, Costello REI and Fortified Title partnered together with Feeding America to contribute a percentage of funds from our transactions that provided nutritious meals to seniors, children, and people who need it most. An anticipated 56-million Americans will struggle to put food onto the table this year. It’s rewarding to know that every dollar we donate feeds ten families. Our goal of winning together applies to our communities as well as our company.”
Costello REI’s three offices in the Carolinas have extremely diverse representation, broad customer orientation, and high employee satisfaction because everyone is well-served. “To be a leader and truly impact change when we are at such an important intersection for race and equality within our communities is huge,” Nelvia says. “I know that with everything I do, it’s imperative to set a good example and to be the discernible change agent within my local communities. Representation matters. I’m proud to have this essential seat at the table, and I’ll do everything in my power to make sure we keep winning together!”