Check engine!

One of us was driving down the road recently when we noticed the little “check engine” light had suddenly illuminated on the dashboard.

Don’t you just hate that?

Do you know what it means when that light goes on?

Neither did we.

A call to the dealership did not seem to help much either. There must have been a new employee answering the phone. Because it wasn’t an extremely difficult question that we asked.

The convo went something like this:

Brother: Hello, this is one of The Madow Brothers calling. I noticed that my check engine light just came on. I have a really busy schedule and I am not sure what to do. Do you have any idea what it means? Is it safe to drive my car?

Car person: No way to tell. It could mean that something just needs to be looked at or it could mean that something is really f*cked up. Can you bring it in? (Yes, he really used the ‘F’ word)

Brother: I don’t know when I can get it in. I am leaving in the morning to speak to a group of dentists. I won’t be back until Sunday. What do you think is going to happen?

Car person: Like I said, no way to tell. You got to bring your car over here.

Let’s talk about this one. First of all, it sure doesn’t sound like that the person who answered the phone was a graduate of the esteemed “Appointment College.” He was of no help. Now we’re not car experts or anything, but don’t you think he could have mentioned that we could drop the car off and use the night time drop box? All car places have them!

But more importantly, there was absolutely no warning leading up to the “check engine” light illuminating. Wouldn’t it be really cool if there was a light or a warning system that let us know we were getting close to a “check engine emergency?”

But there was nothing.  No warning. It just happened.

Then we started thinking. (Because our minds always wander!)

There is no “check engine” light in dental practices either. No warning light.

Nothing!

What does this mean? It means that things could be getting really messed up and you have no idea. You get no warning when the “engine” of your practice is overheating!   Well, maybe your warning is that you can no longer pay bills or meet payroll. But it’s too late at that point, right?

But believe it or not, you do have something that is similar to a check engine light in your practice. It’s called a profit and loss statement. And if you have a good accountant, you should receive a detailed one every quarter.

Do you ever look at it? Our guess is you have taken a quick glance every now and then.

Our advice for the day is to totally understand your profit and loss statement. There is actually a TON of useful information there that will let you know how your practice is doing. Once you understand what all the geeky accounting stuff means, you are very likely to avert a disaster from ever occurring.

So get together with your accountant. Don’t do it now… wait until tax season is over. He or she is crazy busy right now. But sometime after April 18 (yes, we get three free days this year), set up a meeting and ask your CPA to explain everything. You will actually be amazed at what information can be gleaned from this quarterly report!

Remember – there is no “check engine” light that illuminates when things start getting whacked out in your practice. Maybe one day but no one has invented that yet.

So in the meantime perhaps the profit and loss statement is the next best thing. Take advantage of this piece of equipment! It really could save your practice and perhaps your life!