By Rebecca Soto, ABOC, NCLEC

I remember sitting in my first graduate course and the professor started by asking us to define our culture. He gave us a few minutes to think. The only thing I was thinking was, well, I’m Puerto Rican. So, I raised my hand very confidently and said, “I’m Puerto Rican. We dance to salsa and eat Hispanic foods.” He said, “No, Ms. Soto,” in his heavy Puerto Rican accent. That is your race.” Hmmm, what is he talking about? Well, I learned as the lesson moved on. Let me explain and how it applies in our world of Opticianry.

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Culture is a way of life. It includes our values and beliefs. Culture is the environment which surrounds us. It can help create a sense of belonging and growth. How many of us have worked at a company where you just don't agree with what they are doing? They are going against what you believe in as a person and professional. For example, “Oh, you mean you want me to sell High-Index lenses to a -0.25 sphere.” Hopefully, you don’t know that place.

Culture is the environment that surrounds you at your workplace. It shapes your work relationships and enjoyment. It cannot be seen but felt. If you are a manager, you have a critical role in shaping the culture of the organization. What is culture in a company? Culture is having integrity and ethical values. It means having open and honest communication with staff. It means having a commitment to patients, and to providing quality and reliable products.

Culture starts with the owner or manager and trickles down to the patients. You want staff to feel appreciated and rewarded. You want employees to give 100%, and to deliver highest quality customer service to the patient. What does it mean in our business to treat everyone who comes in as your family? Staff should feel a sense of camaraderie. If they are smiling and happy in the environment, this will be felt by patients when they enter your business. As a manager or business owner, a company should place importance on health, family, and a positive workplace. Show your gratitude and appreciation, and in turn, your staff will pass it on to the patients.

We all know the feeling of walking into an office and feeling the tension. Well, we also feel the love when we walk in an office where people are happy to greet you. If you are a business owner or manager, create this culture in your office. If you are seeking employment, find an office with positive values and culture.

Most important is to treat others as you want to be treated. This is what it means to have integrity and ethical values in business.