ANY COMPANY, USA -- Bowling and good business practices have more in common than the thrill of competition. In business, competition means that only the strong survive. While this is great for a market economy and The Strikers on lane six, it can be hell on the employees making it happen. The photonics industry is no different. Capitalizing on new technology requires quick responses, hard work and flexibility -- all of which produce more stress than a 7-10 split. Managers at Optem International Inc. of Fairport, N.Y., understand this. "We're firm believers that if you can be friends outside of work, then when you have to work together, it's not just with a business associate," explains marketing manager Carol Ellsworth. Optem encourages its employees to let down their hair. The result is a roll-up-your-sleeves-and-join-in attitude that has taken the company from a handful of employees to more than 60. Segmented by departments, employees do not always know what their fellow workers need to get the job done. By getting together outside of work and communicating, "maybe they can find out how to help each other with their jobs," she said. Communication among high-tech employees can be further complicated by the degree of specialized knowledge needed to succeed. Marketing assistant Kim Vallille of Ottawa said, "If it's fun, maybe we can get away from that a little."