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Derek Tenpenny possesses the ability to make everyone feel welcome. As the front desk attendant at Little Rock Athletic Club (LRAC) for the past 14 years, this ability is an important one.
“His spirit is one of inclusion from the moment he sees you,” said Mary Olson, the club manager at LRAC. “His eye contact and body language give you the impression he has known you for years, but what is most impressive is that he is truly interested in you. He opens the club, so he arrives at 4:30 a.m. and works until noon. What many people don’t know is that he then goes to his barbershop and works until approximately 7:30 p.m. The fact that he maintains a truly positive attitude day in and day out is what makes Derek a Front-Line All Star.”
Learn more about Tenpenny and his spirit of inclusion here:
Title: Front Desk Attendant
Club: Little Rock Athletic Club
Years of Service: 14
CS: What is the favorite aspect of your job?
DT: I would say my favorite aspect is the sense of family here at the gym. Like all families we have our ups and downs, but I feel that my LRAC family has always and will always be there for me. What I love most about my job is that I can be myself. I love that this place allows me the opportunity to love on the members and staff all the same. From the CEO to the new hires, I can be me.
CS: What’s kept you at the gym all this time?
DT: The athletic club provides a source of income that assists me in supporting my family and other business ventures. The LRAC also makes me feel valued by taking the time to listen to ideas and concerns when involving changes within the company. There are not too many companies that would include their staff when there are changes that need to be made. I can say that I have a voice here at the gym. Also, being a long-time employee with the club, the staff and members have been a great support base and they value my opinion as well.
CS: Was there ever an “aha” moment that made you realize you loved your job?
DT: I wouldn’t say there has ever been an “aha” moment that made me realize that I love my job, but there was a point in my life when I had no doubt the staff and members cared for me. It was when my youngest son had passed away driving home from college. It was during that lowest time in my life when the gym and its members stood with me and did whatever needed to be done to help me through such an unhappy time. That’s when I knew I was loved.
CS: Where do you get your work ethic?
DT: I believe my work ethic comes from my father. Growing up, my father always taught me to work hard and let nothing stand in my way of taking care of my family. My son once asked me, “Dad, how do you do it”? My response was, “When you have someone other than yourself to take care of; then you will know how.”
CS: How do you keep a positive attitude?
DT: My faith in God and his son Jesus would be the reason for my positive attitude. I have a genuine love for everyone. I am a hugger. I think there is something special when you can take the time to embrace someone. Now, that’s not for everyone — you have to use wisdom in all things you do.
CS: What practices or techniques do you use to make strong connections with members?
DT: One of the things I like to do with members or anyone I’m trying to get to know is, I will ask them to tell me a little about themselves. What do they do as a profession, etc. Sometimes, I open with a comment about sports if they have on a particular team shirt.
As far as remembering a member’s name, I will focus on someone that comes into the gym and make it a point to remember the face with the name after they have checked in. Then after a few times, the next time they come in I am able to address them by their name, adding a big smile — which makes all the difference in the world!
CS: What’s the most challenging aspect of your job, and how do you strive to overcome that challenge?
DT: For me, my most challenging aspect would be getting up so early to open during the week. For most people getting up to be at work by 4:30 a.m. may be easy, but it is hard for me at times. I work a second job so my days are very long. I’m up at 3:30 a.m., at work by 4:30 a.m., off at noon back working by 1:30 p.m. and some days may not get home until 8:00 p.m. So yes, it gets harder as the week gets longer.
What really helps me get through my week is an old fashion “cat nap.” During my break I like to take a nap to help me recharge for the rest of the day. It really helps and I would recommend that to anyone that has a full day. I started cat napping because I would get sleepy driving from one job to the next and needed rest for driving to my second job.
CS: What best practice tips can you share that would be beneficial to professionals in a similar role at other clubs?
DT: One of the best tips I can give is be open. Be willing to open up yourself to get to know someone. Don’t be standoffish. Smile at people even if you are having a bad morning. Leave your issues outside the door and you can pick them up when you leave for the day. Be concerned with how other people feel. Take a few minutes to listen to someone else’s issues. That may be the thing that helps them and maybe yourself. Learn to be kind to others.
CS: What’s the biggest mistake you’ve ever made, and what did you learn from it?
DT: A mistake would be worrying about things you have no control of or can change. I can’t say that I’ve made this mistake, but I see it with other co-workers and members. From a co-worker aspect, there are going to be things said and done that management doesn’t need your opinion on, no matter how important you think you are.
As The Rock used to say, ‘Know your role and shut your mouth.” I say that jokingly, but there is a lot of truth behind the statement. My advice I share with everyone is, don’t get your feelings all wrapped up in your job. What I mean by this is, come in, do your job and do it well and the things you have no control over won’t get your feelings caught up in the situation. This way your feelings aren’t hurt if something is not done your way.
CS: What’s one of the best ideas you’ve had that improved the club?
DT: One of the better ideas I suggested to the gym was, management wanted the gym to have the type of atmosphere as if you were walking in a five-star hotel. So I recommended flower arrangements and the idea was used. The members loved them and it took our front and tennis entrance area to another level.
CS: Is there a funny member story you can share?
DT: This story comes during one of the hardest times in my life. This was a little after my son passed. I had already returned to work. I was trying to keep a good face and be strong to get through the day. I would have my moments when I would break down and just needed to collect myself. One of the members, Kristi H, shared with me her method on how she deals with some things that were overwhelming to her. She said when she is feeling down and needs to let it all out, she would drive to any cemetery, get out her car and let it all go no matter whose grave site she was standing over. She said if anyone saw her crying, they won’t know who or what she was crying about. We laughed and laughed about that, but oddly enough I could see that working. Thank you Kristi, I will carry that with me always.
CS: What’s the best gift from a member you’ve ever received?
DT: I won’t mention her name, but I will say this: She and her husband blessed me and my wife with an all-expense paid trip to see my son play in the Army All American Bowl. That’s a gift I will never forget and I love both of them for blessing us with the trip. God Bless her and her family.
Know a Front-Line All Star at your gym? Nominate them to be featured here.