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Bradley Gentry was an elementary school student in Bryant on Jan. 28, 1986, when he and much of the rest of the world witnessed a horrific event on TV, the explosion of the space shuttle Challenger and the loss of the seven astronauts inside. Among them was a New Hampshire schoolteacher, Christa McAuliffe.
That was the day Gentry decided to become an engineer, seeking ways to use knowledge to “better the world around us.” After earning a bachelor’s degree and a master’s in electrical engineering from the University of Arkansas, he developed space-based payload systems for Northrop Grumman in Maryland and completed an MBA.
Family necessities eventually made weekly flights between Maryland and Arkansas untenable, so he found work-life balance by creating an innovative business, Odyssey Consulting, which he eventually renamed Gentry Professional Services.
When expert engineers crucial to their companies and projects are looking at retirement or a more liberating schedule, Gentry hires them and offers their companies — now his clients — their services as contractors.
“They go ahead and fully retire, and we hire them as our W2 employee, set up a B2B agreement with the client and assign our new employee back as a consultant to the client,” Gentry said.
The novel approach — providing elite, specialized engineers to companies ranging from defense and cybersecurity to aerospace and intelligence — caught on quickly. Despite remarkable success in engineering, Gentry considers starting the company his greatest accomplishment.
He takes a family approach to management, saying the “most important thing is to take care of our employees.” When they feel like family, said Gentry, 47, they feel fulfilled in their work and tell other potential recruits how much they like it. The company even holds family dinners for employees, taking them out for a special meal as a reward and a fellowship opportunity.
“When Gentry lost a client due to circumstances beyond our control, our employees worked to add new clients, not for their gain, but because they were so appreciative of working for a company that gave them the respect, autonomy and input that they deserved.”
And that’s one reason he describes the company’s employee-centered approach as the secret to its success.