5 Crisis Lessons I Learned from Interviewing Dentistry’s Top Experts


by Dr David Phelps

by Dr David Phelps


t doesn’t matter who you are, what business you’re in, or where you are from – the last 10 days have been turbulent.

My job, I believe, after having lived 6 decades and surviving my fair share of crises (4 economic recessions, for starters, but also personal crises – my daughter’s life or death battle with Leukemia, the marriage that didn’t survive my daughter’s illness, and even an attempted practice sale that fell to pieces), is to help others create a “Plan B” and navigate the unexpected. 

 Life is not a straight shot.

Sometimes the detours are from our own decisions – events that we control. Sometimes the detours come from beyond our control (like a global pandemic, for example.)

In my experience, people are the most effective insurance policies in times of crisis. The right people. 

I’m talking about a network of people who you have built trust with over time. This could be professional advisors, but personally, I prefer a more informal network. People that I’ve lived life with, who share my values, and bring different expertise, experience, and perspective to the table. 

We all bring emotions to the table when our families and our businesses are at stake. That’s part of being human. We MUST separate ourselves from that – and the best way to do that is through other people. 

That’s how I find my path forward in uncertain times. 

When this crisis began to materialize, I immediately knew I would need some perspective. So I reached into my (digital) Rolodex and started scheduling calls.  

Over the last 7-10 days, I’ve interviewed a large number of key advisors in my network. People who have been to hell and back with me – some I’ve known for as long as 40 years. Several are leaders in our profession whose names you might recognize.

I asked them the tough questions and got their perspective. Here are my 5 key takeaways from many hours of interviews.

1) Leaders. Stay. Calm. 

One of the worst things you can do is overreact with panic and fear. Fear leads to miscalculations, useless activity, and over-stimulus from the wrong information (headlines, social media, the inactionable “breaking news” of the day).  That type of frenzied mindset will NOT lead to good decision making. 

It’s not like there’s been a car wreck or you have to get an antidote injected right away to survive. 

You have some time here. 

Slow down. 

Allow time to create a real decision tree, evaluate priorities, and get perspective. Take a moment to triage the situation so that you make the best decisions possible based on the information you have today.

Of course, there are some practical things to consider in the short term: 


Approach these with a level head. Be calm. Get perspective. Take it one step at a time. 

2) This is a crisis for EVERYONE (We’re all in this together, people)

This means that you have permission to adapt and make decisions. 

Everyone else is experiencing this crisis too. Few will fault you for taking well-thought action and doing the best you can with the information and the resources that you have. 

So be prepared to make bold decisions. Give yourself permission to try some things, to adapt. 

This crisis is your ticket to take some risk. No one’s going to judge you for it – most people are actually looking for a leader to show creativity and resourcefulness. 

Be that leader. 

3) The strong will survive, lead, and serve. 

Keep your family strong and your business ready to rebound quickly when the government turns the lights back on. 

Do the short term actions I checklisted earlier; you just need to survive the gap period (whether it’s 4 weeks, 8 weeks, 12 weeks).  

Don’t worry about accessing credit if necessary, or even accessing some of your net worth to create the cash you need right now. Do it wisely, get advice – but do what you have to do not only to survive the gap, but also to show strong leadership, serve, and be positioned well for reentry into the marketplace. 

Do what you need to do to be ready when the quarantine lifts to come out of the gate STRONG and FAST.

Which leads me to…

4) There will be HUGE opportunities at the other end of this.

First, in business. Whatever your business is – I'm talking to both dentists and entrepreneurs – there will be huge opportunities, IF you show strong leadership during this season. A lot of businesses will not survive or have the viability to continue with their former business model; it’s the way these cycles work. They purge the excess and destroy the weak. 

They also create huge opportunities for those who are strong and prepared. 

Second, in your net worth and investing. It is going to be GAME ON in the alternative investment space (real estate). I believe we’re going to see another period like the post 2008 season – HUGE opportunities. If you are near exiting your practice (and harvesting that equity) or you’ve just been disciplined to build significant investing capital through your career, the ability for you to multiply your net worth will be massive. 

You’ll need to be plugged into the right network, the right access points, and have the “know how” to do it. If you don’t have those things now, you need to get them – fast. 

Don’t sit on the sidelines: Opportunities like this only come a few times in your lifetime (I’ve experienced 4 myself).

I’m not talking about being vultures here – entrepreneurs fill the voids in the marketplace. It’s what we do. Disruption like this creates massive voids. We provide liquidity in the marketplace when the marketplace needs it, when the banks are not in a position to serve the need. 

Get connected with the right guides who can help you find the access points to these kinds of opportunities. 

5) This is a time to test!

Consider this Day 1. The status quo is dead. Develop the mindset of a startup founder. 

Don’t be afraid to test and innovate with your business model. If there was ever a time to take forward action and test some ideas – the time is now. Do it wisely, get guidance…but don’t go small. Don’t just hunker down and retract. 

Those who try to do business and investing as usual using the old models – it’s going to be a rocky road. Be open to looking at new pathways. This is what capitalism and entrepreneurship is all about. It’s the spirit this country was built upon. 

This is the time to make a difference in your life.

Don’t hold back. 

P.S. I'm holding a 2-day workshop this weekend on navigating crisis (both in business and investing), and time is running out. You can reserve your seat here: www.freedomfounders.com/workshop


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2 thoughts on “5 Crisis Lessons I Learned from Interviewing Dentistry’s Top Experts

  1. This is great! especially #4 . Great advice my current business (Dental E.R.) was born during the last recession. We are now gearing up for the summer of 2020. See you the 27th

  2. Great message. We all need this at this time. We are holding webinars for all our clients 3X per week. I had them list several crisis times in their own lives and what they have learned from each. Most are doing well. We are in this together. We are a strong country and will come out well. At my age my biggest concern is staying healthy. Keep up the good work.

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