By Mr. James Brabenec (IMCOM)February 24, 2011
FORT SILL, Okla. -- Appearing sleek and fit as if Father Time decided to let time run backward for a decade, Otis Gentry leads by example as the manager of Goldner Fitness Center.
That leadership is displayed through his personal interaction with customers who frequent his facility.
"To have good customer service, you have to spend time with your patrons," he said. "The fitness center staff is here for them, that is what is instilled through Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation that we will serve our customers."
Whether someone is arriving or departing, Gentry believes a greeting is essential to help them feel comfortable with the center and eager to come again.
Like Fort Sill's other two fitness centers, Honeycutt and Rinehart, Goldner is a full-service facility with a weight room, cardio machines, fitness classes, a gymnasium and more. Although it is important to get people into the fitness center, Gentry insists on making sure people are ready to work out. He sees a manager's role as one who is acquainted with his regular customers and that happens by interacting with them during their workouts.
"Safety is the No. 1 issue to ensure people have a good workout. I try to know their condition or what ailments they may have all because our patrons' health is most important," he said.
Drawing from his 22-year Army career, Gentry knows the value of teamwork and not having to know it all to get people the answers they need. If someone mentions an injury to him, he'll ask if he or she has had a doctor look at it, and if so, started physical therapy. If another person wants information on eating right, Gentry will suggest he or she talk to the nutrition officer at Reynolds Army Community Hospital.
Gentry said he has a pretty good idea of the fitness of about 20-25 people who regularly workout there. Sometimes that may mean directing someone to a much easier workout, such as walking around the gym rather than running on the treadmill. He regularly reminds customers back from injuries or medical procedures to be patient and ensure their recovery is complete before returning to the fitness center.
"In most cases, you really won't lose much in terms of overall fitness, and the fun part is you can build back up or even get stronger than before the injury," he said.
Dee Dee Wiley is one example of Gentry's approach to managing people's fitness activities. Wiley works out with a group of ladies who call themselves Team XXX, part of the P.H.A.T. club on post; they workout under Gentry's direction Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. The ladies arrived Friday morning to a gym arrayed in eight to 10 different exercises, something he called chaos day or a mini boot camp. After learning Wiley had a shoulder ailment, Gentry suggested some modifications to an exercise that enabled Wiley to still exercise but to do it in a safe manner. By pointing this out to the class of eight women, two first-timers learned how Gentry led the class and were more at ease joining in.
Vanessa Darden and her friend Priscilla Zavala went through the routines together, often under Gentry's encouragement. For Darden, Team XXX offers her a way to shed some weight following the birth of her third child. Both women appreciate how Gentry will work around their schedules and when he mentioned he'd come in on Presidents Day if anyone wanted to workout, two hands shot up.
"Our husbands are off, they can watch the kids," said Darden.
Although customer service may likely be the hallmark of a good facility, general appearances count, too.
"I believe the first thing people notice is how clean it is," said Gentry, who likened Goldner's appearance to a clean restaurant suggesting good food. "It is a good policy as a manager and fitness trainer to make sure the facility is clean and ready for patrons' use."
For example, he said weight room equipment scattered all over the floor or heavy weights left on the equipment would likely dissuade or intimidate females or newcomers from following through and getting a good work out. On the other hand, a well kept facility often leads to favorable comments from customers.
"If the customer is pleased, I'm pleased," he said.
Recreation aide Shaniqua Brown has worked at Goldner now for three years, and although the center looked good before, she said Gentry told his staff when he first arrived he wanted the facility to look great and be above standard.
"When Otis arrived, he told us what he expected and gave us the responsibility to make it happen. It's up to us to stay on task with that so he doesn't have to readdress it, and the facility is a lot better now because of his management," she said.
Gentry said he manages and teaches his staff to step in and do what needs to be done whether or not he is there.
"If I don't train my people, especially my assistant managers, to move up and be successful, then I'm not doing the right thing to help them along. Everything I learn I try to teach them too and not stand and watch them over their shoulders," he said.
Leadership by example doesn't end with the duty day. Although Gentry teaches Spin and abs classes, he'll just as likely hit the weight room for a little personal fitness time.
"I try to do something every day," he said, "the most important thing is to feel good about yourself."