Bret Haas opened Barista Bravo a decade ago to meet the need for a local, homegrown coffee shop and hangout. He had a great location and developed a regular clientele within his first year. He wanted to add some bakery goods to complement his hot and cold specialty coffees. When he developed a relationship with a nearby bakery, things really took off. When he met Panayiota, the owner of a local Greek bakery, “She absolutely blew me away!” he said. She served him diples and loukoumades with strong Greek coffee—the kind with the grounds still in the cup. Through Panayiota he had found exactly the bakery items he wanted to feature in his coffee shop. Word spread. Soon, his regular customers were cleaning him out every day. “Before I knew what was happening I had people calling in to order their pastries before we ran out. It was crazy!” Next he added a website where he offered gift baskets of baked goods and high-end coffees. By that time he had cultivated a loyal clientele. Because of location and the fact his shop was locally owned and managed, he had many corporate types who made Barista Bravo a part of their daily routine. For Christmas he made up hundreds of gift baskets with baklava, Barista Bravo coffee mugs, and a selection of his premier house-branded coffees, which made for great business gifts. He worked hard that holiday season, and it paid off handsomely. “Pretty soon, I had as much business through the website as I did in the store. We were busier than ever. But even though the business looked hugely successful, I was burning out.” Something had to change. “I and my small staff couldn’t handle our walk-in customers and the phone orders and the website traffic. I had to give up something.” But Bret realized each element depended on the others. To pull one would hurt the other two. “It was all or nothing.” For a couple of weeks, Bert considered just shutting the place down. Then he toyed with the idea of selling the business. But in his heart he knew he couldn’t do either one. He needed to find a way to make things work and not ruin his health in the process. It was actually one of his regulars who made the business-saving suggestion: “Hire an answering service to handle your phone calls and website orders. Then you can focus on the people in your store.” “So I did!” Bert sent all calls and orders to an answering service, which also happened to be a locally owned business. “Hiring an answering service to handle my phone orders and online traffic was the smartest thing I ever did. I couldn’t believe how much of a load it took off my shoulders.” With the pressure off, Bert began to regain his energy and his passion. The threat of burn out faded. His focus returned. It wasn’t long before he began planning a second location. Peter Lyle DeHaan is a freelance writer from Southwest Michigan. Contact us to learn how a telephone answering service can give your business a more professional image.