Home Views Culture: “That Feeling You Get When You Walk Through the Door”

Culture: “That Feeling You Get When You Walk Through the Door”

Establishing a practice culture requires leadership, intentionality and continuous attention, said the four business owners in the Workplace Well-Being: Creating a Productive and Positive Culture panel. Unlike an operations manual that details how service is delivered, a culture is more “that feeling you get when you walk through the door,” said Tonia Sobchuk, OD, of Lake Havasu, Arizona. Paula Newsome, OD, of Charlotte, North Carolina, agreed, saying that anyone calling the office is going to hear the words, “‘Thank you for calling Advanced Vision Center, where we care.’ Care is at the core of our culture.”

suzy lake
Dr. Lake

Suzy Lake, OD, of Kansas City, Missouri, added that it’s important to identify core values; two that they stress in their help wanted ads is that team members show up and have fun.  What that means is that if you’re vomiting, you stay home. If you have the sniffles, you come in. We’re a small office and we have to be there for each other,” she said. Creating that family feel is a solid value in the offices co-owned by Brittani Carver-Schemper, OD, of Fayetteville, North Carolina; other than for a few new hires, her staff has been with the practice for an average of 7.5 years.

tania sobchuk small thumb
Dr. Sobchuk

Share the mission. Dr. Sobchuk said that bringing the mission statement into the daily operations—it’s posted large in the break room and on every mousepad—keeps the mission front of mind. She said that implementing The Great Game of Business®, an open-book management program, created a big culture shift in the practice that brought everyone into the ownership mentality and the sense of being a part of something bigger.

paula newsome
Dr. Newsome

Involve the staff. Dr. Newsome started her annual day of service in the Charlotte community about six years ago. Staff members are invited to help, but it’s not a workday. (Dr. Newsome typically pays them anyway for their help.) It’s a point of pride and community engagement.

Choose joy. Dr. Carver-Schemper’s motto is to choose joy. It’s something she discusses in team huddles in their discussions and engagements with patients and others.

britanni carver schemper
Dr. Carver-Schemper

Create a culture calendar. By letting employees know what event or special day is coming up, staff members look forward to it, said Dr. Lake. She found that letting staff members know what’s coming excites them—and removes the anxiety of wondering if there would be a surprise event.

Find the unusual. Dr. Sobchuk offers a “Zen room,” a quiet space with a massage chair and purple walls. It’s been used by staff members who need some decompression and by nursing moms. It’s doesn’t get overused or abused as a hideaway, either, said Dr. Sobchuk. Dr. Newsome has invited her massage therapist to come in on a Friday afternoon and give each staff member a short massage in a room she set up or at their chairs.

The value of a mental break. Dr. Lake provided her staff members with lunch together and allowed each team member to take some scheduled mental health time after the exhausting rush of reopening. Dr. Carver-Schemper has scaled back from the larger monthly staff events held prior to COVID-19 to smaller events, like pop-up happy hours.

You can turn it around. Several of the panel members discussed how they slowly and methodically enhanced the culture, especially by repetition and consistency of the core values.


Watch their full conversation from the 2020 Women’s Leadership Conference below.

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