Quietly Changing the Game

For nearly three decades, Connie Gentry has been the sport’s guiding light. Most often remaining the “lady behind the curtain,” her impact has touched nearly every facet of the industry.
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For nearly three decades, Connie Gentry has been the sport’s guiding light. Most often remaining the “lady behind the curtain,” her impact has touched nearly every facet of the industry.

For 25 years the Gentrys have been changing and leading the team roping industry, and during that time the spotlight, good and bad, has been focused on Denny. In the meantime the other half of the roping business duo, Connie Gentry, has stayed behind the scenes, implementing and creating functionality for every idea that Denny and his team of contractors could dream up.

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“I have always joked that our agreement is that she does 60% of the work and I take 100% of the credit,” says Denny. According to insiders, that’s not too far from the truth.

Connie is an Albuquerque, N.M., native, the fourth of six children. A mere 4 pounds at birth, all her siblings will tell you that she has been tenacious ever since she could breathe. She started working at age 12, and was completely on her own by 16. Connie has never made any excuses about growing up in a fairly dysfunctional environment. Hard work was the only way up and she found out pretty quickly that working smarter and harder than everyone else would separate her from the pack. She also observed that succesful people were those that made a difference, and picked her mentors from the difference makers.

Connie believes, “If you like what you do, everyone around you will like it to.”

Connie is a natural leader and manager who hires talented people to work with and helps to develop a competitive edge—capitalizing on the positive strengths of employees. Her managing philosophy has been to find each person’s talents and provide the proper training and job for them to be successful. If they aren’t a good fit, she doesn’t hesitate to find those who are. She spent 13 years in the human resources profession, starting as an analyst working her way up to HR director at the age of 29 for a major fortune 500 Company.

In the late 80’s Denny left his cattle executive job to pursue a dream to change the roping industry. To make that dream happen, Connie accepted the role of being the bread winner for the family, and in the beginning even subsidized some of the salaries necessary to get USTRC started. When the company took off she never hesitated and left her lucrative career to pursue what by that time had become “the family business.” With Connie’s nuts and bolts organizational and business skills and Denny’s vision, the cowboy’s version of a dream team was in business.

“I seriously don’t believe the recreational roping industry would be where it is today without her,” says Denny. “She always had the final input on any idea that came along for a couple of reasons. When you are responsible for implementing ideas and the first to take the heat for them, your instincts get extremely sharp. In some cases better than mine. I am extremely proud of her.”

A Can-Do Attitude

From the moment she came on board, Connie immediately began analyzing the systems and processes involved in the business side of developing a national organization. She studied the running of events, focusing on jackpot bookkeeping, tabs, and all the money games. She then responded by setting up business systems to handle the quickly growing business. Her goal was to understand the accepted methods and then set up a system of accountability, so that staff and ropers understood the new programs before she replaced those old ways with new procedures, process flows, systems and rules to make the business successful. Whatever the idea—ranging from central entry, stalls, rotations, challenges, multiple arenas, you name it—she produced the rules and systems that allowed these ideas to work. From the most minute details of highlighting a specific word in order for a form to make sense, to creating systems to insure accounting balances at all ropings, to hiring and training future secretaries, she put her stamp on the business of the roping industry. She has always valued the customer and believes in a “can-do” attitude backed by professionalism, and you can see it all over the industry in ways you cannot count.

Long-time friend and roping secretary Vicky Mounyo explained it this way; “Her influence on all of the primary core secretaries during the 90’s has now been passed down to a new generation of secretaries. Many don’t know Connie at all, but they were trained by people using procedures and techniques that she designed.”

The building of World Series of Team Roping was a second opportunity for the Gentry family.

“It has been very rewarding to be successful with the same business model a second time,” says Connie. “There were quite a few folks in the industry who thought we were just lucky the first time around with USTRC, and that we just happened to be in the right place at the right time. But the success of the World Series has pretty well put an end to that.

 “When we started the second time our goal was to stay much smaller so that we could give individual attention, keep rules to a minimum, and try as best we could to be able to say YES to customers.

“With each Finale growing an exponential amount and the company becoming more complex it is getting harder to stay with our original goal. We want to continue to have a small company attitude and provide great customer service, but it appears that we will need to add a few more employees and even more structure to help with the growth.”

Lori Pavelko, who is on the front lines of WSTR, has worked with Connie since 1987 (with a few years skipped in-between) and has been a loyal and trusted employee. When asked why she has stayed connected so long, she says, “This is the best job I have ever had. They have allowed me to make time for my kids, and Connie has never expected me to do something she couldn’t do. Connie is someone who enables you to do your job, will give you the information you need and stand behind you when you make a decision. She expects hard work because she works so hard, but is so generous, and gives me flexibility to also be there for my family, and I don’t know of many other places like that. I came back a second time because there is no other boss or company I would rather work for.”

Growing Pains

WSTR is run with a small staff that handles memberships, information systems and supporting qualification events on a day to day basis, but managing the Finale is a year long process with a lot of challenges.

“Vegas and the lack of support facilities for a roping this large is difficult strategically,” says Connie. “We learned early that because our event occurs at the same time as the NFR, in order to best facilitate a good experience for our customers, we had to handle all of their arrangements, from entries to stall reservations to the hotel reservations. (The first year we were in Vegas our hotel block was gobbled up by non-ropers, who claimed otherwise.) This is no small task with 3,000 WSTR ropers this year. About 90% of the problems come at the end from ropers that couldn’t find partners, couldn’t find money or forgot to get stalls or rooms. We understand their frustration. However, the worst thing that can happen is that we return their money and next year they don’t procrastinate. We will be perceived as the bad guy when we follow the rules and draw them out and can’t give them special consideration, but that is just something that comes with the territory. I field most of the angry calls and understand roper’s frustration and believe that most will understand when they know what we are up against.”

Family First

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On a more personal level, Connie Gentry is also a wife and a mother. Her dream has always been to have a nice home environment, have time for her family and a great quality life for her kids.

“The great thing about this business is that it has allowed us to come together and work at a common goal. Denny and I seem to compliment each other’s business styles and I still love his sense of humor. We are blessed that all three of our kids work in the business. Lacee, 28, handles the media and advertising, Audra, 26, handles communication and clerical work, and Lucas, 16 does grunt work.”

She has also been everything from the classroom mom to the team mom and never missed an event her kids were involved in.

“She’s always there and she’s always got our backs, regardless of the situation. She’s so supportive of me, and I love and appreciate her,” says Lucas.

Her role with WSTR atakes second priority to her family and their friends.

“I feel very blessed that our dream to have a business that has allowed us to raise a family, and have the flexibility and time to enjoy our family has been realized. At the end of the day our families are all that any of us really care about and everything we do together helps to create an even deeper bond.”