The Perfect Garden and Private Equity

Prepare emotionally for the change ahead when ready to pass the baton

Dr. Dave Ziegler has regularly contributed the Optical column to Optometric Management since November 2013. The OM team would like to thank him for diligently sharing optical tips and sage advice with his peers throughout that time and in this, his final Optical column for OM.

There is a story about a gardener who wanted to create the perfect garden. To achieve his ambition, he had to first learn everything there was to know about gardens. So he traveled the land and when he had learned all he needed to know, he began to create his perfect garden.

Over the years, the garden slowly took shape and the fame of the garden grew. People came from all over to enjoy its beauty and they praised the gardener. But the gardener patiently carried on with his work. He knew his garden was not yet perfect.

Then one day, the garden was complete. The gardener looked at it and knew that he had achieved what he had always longed for. But he also knew that his real work had only just begun.

With infinite love and gentleness, the gardener began, leaf by leaf, stone by stone, to remove from the garden what he had so painstakingly put into it. People gasped in disbelief. How could the gardener destroy his life’s work? Finally, only a single blade of grass remained of his garden and he set it free in the wind. He knew that when the perfect garden was finally created, he would have to release it and himself. Both the garden and the gardener are now free.


Many of us have our practices, which are our gardens, and our ambitions to make them perfect and successful and maybe even to win the praise of others for our achievements. But the hardest part emotionally comes when you eventually let go of that which you have created, not necessarily a full release as the gardener did, but to give up control so that your practice can live long into the future.

This is a unique period of time in optometry, with the number of eye care practices being purchased by private equity firms. While practice succession traditionally happened when the senior doctor retired, now many younger and vibrant practices have been purchased much earlier in their life cycle. Having gone through this, I can tell you, while it is rewarding, it is intensely emotional. The financial part, with the practice valuation, is about the numbers and “fit,” and those things work themselves out. But letting go of your creation, the culmination of your dreams, and putting that into the hands of others is hard to do and something you should prepare for emotionally. This letting go also brings with it new life and energy as it allows for an opportunity to reinvent yourself, take on new challenges and pursue new interests.

Those who have been through this know what I mean. While I’m still active in the practice, I’ve walked away from many of the things I built, and also gained and learned in this new chapter. And the privilege of writing this column over the years is the last blade of grass for me. Thank you for letting me share my thoughts with you in this column. I hope I have helped you in some small way.


Dream your perfect garden. Make it happen, as much as you can. Prepare emotionally for the change ahead when you are ready to pass the baton, take that opportunity to reinvent yourself to pursue your next passion. OM