Effective Sept. 1, a local company’s corporate headquarters is growing in size; both its number of employees and its square footage is increasing. And, it’s happening right here on Longboat Key, just 0.3 miles from Town Hall.
Longboat Key resident Charles “Chuck” Nechtem, president and chief executive officer of Charles Nechtem Associates Inc., told the Longboat Observer Monday he’s doubling his office space from approximately 3,000 square feet to roughly 6,000 square feet in Mediterranean Plaza on Bay Isles Road, while also adding seven customer associates to bring his employee count on Longboat Key to 23 people.
Nechtem enlisted the help of the Suncoast Workforce to find qualified out-of-work employees in both Bradenton and Sarasota to join his team on Longboat Key — those employees start Sept. 3.
Charles Nechtem Associates provides employee-assistance programs and manages mental-health programs and customer-service programs for companies and municipalities all over the country.
The company serves as a starting point for its clients’ employees to seek confidential counseling about any issue that arises in their personal or work lives. Once a call comes in, the company’s licensed counselors or social workers will monitor the case, either providing counseling services or finding an appropriate therapist. Nechtem’s staff of about 200 employees monitors 24-hour call-centers out of offices in New Jersey and St. Louis.
The company has more than 1,000 clients, including Barnes & Noble, Lord & Taylor and Waste Pro, to name a few.
Charles Nechtem Associates was the only private company to make Business Insurance magazine’s list of the top 10 largest mental-health companies in the U.S.
The company serves more than 8 million people employed at more than 1,000 companies by using a vast network of 90,000 clinicians worldwide, Nechtem said.
“If someone from Texas calls to report their child is battling depression, our database of therapists finds someone who specializes in that area for our client to talk to,” Nechtem said.
To combat the growth, the company has expanded its outreach, which includes a combination of psychologists and therapists and customer service, claims and finance employees.
Path to the beach
The business’s and Nechtem’s path to Longboat Key, though, emerged purely by chance.
While visiting one of his clients in 2008 in Central Florida, Nechtem inquired about a nice place to visit on the west coast of Florida for a couple of days. They suggested he try Siesta Key.
A business associate told him to drive past St. Armands Circle and check out Longboat Key.
“I love the beach and the sunshine,” Nechtem said. “It got me thinking, ‘I can do what I do in Newark, N.J., right here on this beautiful Key.’”
Nechtem went back to Newark and told his Newark-based employees the corporate headquarters was heading south; he gave them the option to stay up North in a New Jersey office or head south with him.
“I’ve never looked back,” Nechtem said. “It was the right move for me.”
Several employees, including Charles Nechtem Associates chief financial officer May Silber, jumped at the chance to both work and live on Longboat Key.
“It’s one of the best decisions I ever made,” echoed Silber, who lives in Fairway Bay.
Five years later, Nechtem’s company, and the impact it’s having both regionally and right here on Longboat Key, has grown.
So far, 12 of Nechtem’s clients visit the Key annually to hold meetings at the company’s office.
“I put them up in the Key Club or the Hilton to keep them close to our office,” Nechtem said.
One of Nechtem’s clients, Service Corp., is booking 20 rooms in September at the Resort at the Longboat Key Club to hold a company meeting for employees and their families. That decision was made after Nechtem invited some of the company’s associates to the Key for a meeting.
“You only have to show this place off once and people are sold,”
Those meetings have brought the companies and their employees back to the Key for other reasons.
“I take people to Harry’s Continental Kitchens for breakfast or the Key Club to show off what the Key has to offer,” Nechtem. “They fall in love on their own and begin to realize what I did — that Longboat Key is a nice mix of business and beauty.”
The path to Nechtem’s business wasn’t an easy one.
In 1981, the psychologist was fresh out of school and working in New York at a Manhattan hospital when he thought his calling could be working in the field, assisting companies and municipalities with employee-assistance programs.
Nechtem, a Boston native, founded the company after becoming frustrated with his work as a psychologist in the hospital, where he said addictions and mental-health issues were all treated with the same broad brush.
Nechtem went door-to-door with brochures he had made asking for a chance to help improve the quality of life, both for the health of companies and their employees.
“I ate a lot of tuna fish in cans for dinner while I was trying to survive,” Nechtem said. “I got rejected at least 80 times.”
Then, on a whim, he took a bus to Atlantic City, N.J., and met with casino owners and managers; he thought a city of sin would be a great place to find clients — companies with employees who needed counseling. He ended up landing a meeting with Steve Wynn, now a prominent Las Vegas developer. Wynn told Nechtem that, to treat his employees, he would have to learn the casino business, so he would know their problem first-hand. Nechtem took a job at the Golden Nugget, then owned by Wynn, starting as a greeter meeting people coming off the buses. He later worked in the restaurants and on the casino floor.
“I learned the dealers were gambling at other casinos on their days off and the cocktail waitresses had bulimia issues from trying so hard every day to fit into their outfits,” Nechtem said.
Before long, Wynn gave him a job helping employees deal with their issues.
From there, Nechtem said accounts just began to fall in line, including Campbell’s Soup and Pepperidge Farm.
Recently, Nechtem gave graduating students at New College of Florida the following message: “If you have a service or product that meets a need, stay with it and you will grow that need.”