Ep #70 | Never Stop Learning

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With a heart for people and a passion for decor, Anisa and Casey Darnell created Truth & Co to combine their two greatest passions: family and design. As the home sets the stage for years of life and love for your family, they believe it deserves all the love, care, and attention it needs to make it the best backdrop for your family’s greatest memories.

Anisa has been designing, drawing, and dreaming of homes since she was only seven years old. She began her career as a design consultant at 18 years old, advising friends, family, and clients on their home design and décor. She soon expanded her work to include larger projects such as room makeovers and full home renovations, walking with clients all the way from crafting their initial design to installing the final pieces of furniture.  

As an artist, Anisa loves painting and creating unique pieces for the home and family as well. Along with her husband Casey and their four daughters, Ava, Rosa, Eleanor and Adeline, Anisa is excited for the future of Truth & Co.

Currently, Truth & Co is busy with everything from new constructions and home renovations to design consultations and room refreshers.

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Shantel: Hi Anisa, welcome to the podcast.

Anisa: Hi, thank you so much for having me. I'm excited to be here.

Shantel: Of course, we're excited too. You have an amazing company. We're eager to learn and grow from you and learn more about how you got started. Before we dive into Truth and Co., can you tell our listeners what you were doing before and a little bit more about your background?

| DREAM HOME WITHOUT THE HEADACHE |

Anisa: Yes, thank you. Well, Truth and Co. is an interior design studio. We are a group of interior designers that work together, we say, to help clients come up with their dream home without the headache, so just helping them along the process, whether that is redecorating to a new build or full renovations. I like do that alongside with my husband, Casey. We have four daughters, and we've got a team of seven.

Shantel: That's amazing. Did you always start as an interior decorator or designer? How did the company come to fruition?

Anisa: No, I haven't always started. I did start interior design though about 15 years ago, but through a journey of being on my own and then having a partner and then back on my own again, Truth and Co. is only two-and-half years old, but it's been there a total rebirth. It's crazy when you think you've been in the field long enough, you can never stop learning. I never want to stop learning. I keep trying to challenge myself and grow. I absolutely love it and I've taken time off with having kids here and there, but a little time off because I realized it's something that is in me, and I'm so passionate about it. I can't shut it down. It's the last two-and-a-half years that I've been really pursuing it and pursuing our company and trying to grow.

Shantel: Well, that's amazing, seven teammates for two-and-a-half years. You said you work with your husband. Did you meet him through your background in design?

Anisa: No, actually when we started dating, we would go to our model homes or homes that were under construction in very, very affluent neighborhoods that we could not afford at that time. We would just get inspired, and honestly, this dream of interior design started in me as a little girl. I was, excuse me, four years old, and I took my first trip to Georgia and came down and did Street of Dreams. It was these million-dollar homes. I just remember being blown away by the architecture and the design and the textures and the colors. At seven years old, I decided, "I'm gonna be an architect one day." Well, I realized that was way too much math, so I didn't pursue that, but just really fell in love with textiles and colors and layers and textures and how to create a space. I feel so influenced and affected by my environment and from redecorating my room as a little girl, and my mom redecorating the house to helping her paint and pick out wallpaper back in the mid '80s. I mean, it's everywhere now, so it's great. I'm just so passionate about it, so Casey and I definitely, he'd seen me through the journey the last 17 years we've been together. It's something though that I absolutely love.

Shantel: That is amazing. I'm stuck on that you guys spent date nights touring these model homes, almost sneaking into them.

Anisa: Yes. I'm sure we should not have been in them. These are some great areas in Atlanta. I mean, we, we still drive down these streets. We're like, "You remember when?" But yes, we definitely probably should have not been in those job sites, but we would sit there and be like, "We should do the floor plan like this and this," and we would plan out where the furniture could go. Of course when you're dating, you're dreaming about your future and your children you'll have. Thankfully it worked out for us. We definitely had a passion for it back then, and that one day we'll have a store. One day, we'll have a company. Fast forward 17 years later, we have a great company and hopefully one day a store.

Shantel: That is amazing. You mentioned seven teammates. Did you start off initially just you and Casey, or did you bring over some people from previous work that you've done? How did you start hiring? When did you say start hiring, that whole process?

Anisa: Well, my first hire was someone to help me with finances and bookkeeping. I realized that that was something that I was not good at. With interior design or most jobs when you're an entrepreneur or you think, "Oh, I'm just gonna get to do the fun stuff. I don't work for anyone. I get to do 80% of what I love and 20% of what I don't. I think, I had a huge wake up call to, "Oh my gosh, this is way harder than I imagined doing it on my own." When I was a freelance before, I don't think I took it really seriously. This time, I was like, "No, I'm a grownup. I need to make this a legitimate business that can sustain our family." I had a huge wake up call. My first hire was someone to help me with the books. I just put out on our website looking for help and Instagram. Thankfully, we got some great connections, and so that was our first hire. Totally terrified of, "Oh my word. How am I going to help provide for someone else and their family and be responsible enough to give someone a paycheck?" That first hire for me was so scary. Thankfully, God's just provided. As our team grows, I continually see just him provide work so that I can take care of our team, but it's scary. It's really scary. The first one's the hardest, and then you gradually can add and grow and scale from there.

Shantel: Absolutely. I mean, it's funny looking back and remembering that time as well. No, there's not a book that really talks about, "How do you go through the legal process, and do you do a W2? What payroll company do you use? What reports do you have to file?" I mean, there's so much logistics that that part is also draining to figure it out even though you know you're in a good place to bring on that person. I remember it being certainly scary too. Then still to this day, how many mouths am I feeding? I better make sure work's coming in so that we could do that. I can certainly relate to that.

Anisa: Absolutely. It's like jumping off a cliff and you're like, "I hope this is right." I mean, you feel it's right, but just making sure that if you're telling someone, "Yeah, I'm gonna do this for you," that exactly the work comes in and you can commit to providing for them.

Shantel: Absolutely. Do you work in an office space with your team or primarily remote?

| A VIRTUAL CULTURE |

Anisa: We all work remotely. We are a virtual culture, thanks to Bryan Miles and Shannon Miles. It has been amazing just having a team that's virtual. My first hire, like I said, was the girl that helped us with bookkeeping and now has turned into our financial director. She's definitely taken on a lot more responsibility, but shortly after I hired her, her husband got relocated to Orlando, and I mean within three or four months of hiring. I was just so sad. I was like, "My first hire, oh no, she's moving away," but thankful to business tools like Zoom and other things that we can do online and virtual software.

We can still connect. I see her all the time face to face through a computer screen, so to say. It really hasn't changed a ton. I mean, granted when we are physically face to face, it is amazing because I'm like, "I can physically touch you. I'm going to give you a hug." It's been awesome. Our team is pretty virtual but most of our clients are in the Metro Atlanta area. Then we do do e-clients. We have some projects remotely in the southeast but thankfully to technology, we can take on staff further away. We work from our computers. A lot of times, we're working at the local coffee shop. We have some favorite restaurants that we'll work from. It's like, "Hey, let's do lunch and work a few hours." Then a lot of our meetings are in client's homes.

Shantel: That is amazing. We started off our company, Imagine Media in a Panera. That's where me and Margot, my business partner, would meet every day. I mean, I think they knew us by name and our order, but I'm pretty sure I got kicked off the internet every half an hour or definitely around lunchtime because they were like, "You guys have to get out here." Those are some good times.

Anisa: Oh, it's awesome. We even tried an office space for two months, and I just was like, "I'm never there." I was paying for it and it was such a great idea. Like, "Yeah, let's have this space a conference room for our team to meet." We tried it but after two months, we stopped and we're like, "I think we're just gonna keep doing what we do." This is what we do. I was trying to make this cool. I don't know if I was trying to impress myself or anybody, but like, "Yeah, we have an office space, but our conference room to meet in, and this is how we roll. So we're just gonna keep doing it this way."

Shantel: It is. It's fun to have that, but then the overhead. If it doesn't really make sense, it doesn't make sense. Have you come up with a good meeting cadence to try to connect with everyone that's virtual, or do you have any recommendations on how often you're talking to the team or having pow wows and casting vision?

Anisa: Yes. We meet every Monday. We have generally about a two to a two-and-a-half hour Zoom call on Monday mornings. That's gearing up for the week. We go through every client where we are at. We have some relational time. We check in on family member's health. We have different key points that we're trying to hit in that meeting and then what needs to be executed that week. Then at the end of the week, I have another Zoom call with people that are kind of more operations on our team and financial, just making sure, "Hey, did this invoice get out or did we follow up with that client, or did we ever hear back from this builder?" Just stuff so that we know that we're book ending the front end and the end of the week. That has really been helpful for us. I've really tried to tell the team like, "We've got to protect those." If a client wants to meet Monday morning, I'm so sorry, it's gonna have to be Monday afternoon. We've made occasional adjustments. There has been a little bit of flex, but if we don't have it, I feel like it throws our whole week off, not just me but for our team. We have to connect and we have to make it a priority. Then on top of that, once a month, we try to have an in-person team meeting. That is where I will rent out a conference room for several hours. We'll bring in lunch and just go over client stuff, so touch on a little bit of our Monday morning meetings, but then we're also trying to build relational stuff and then also set goals and cast a vision for the future. It's definitely a whole day event and then quarterly meetings as well.

Shantel: We have a very similar meeting structure. We meet weekly on Mondays, so Monday seemed to be the companywide meeting days, which is great. How do you split up your role between you and Casey? What do you focus on and what does he focused on?

| MY SECRET WEAPON |

Anisa: Gosh, well he's like my secret weapon. I think people don't realize how helpful he is in our company because they don't see him at every meeting, where they're gonna see me or a designer there or our operations girl. He's not gonna be out front as much, but gosh, he's a huge backbone in our company, helping us make financial decisions, helping us make client decisions, which ones we take on, which ones we don't, helping us set goals and project income for the future. He is helping to just ... those dadgum taxes and payroll and working very closely with our calendaring, our girl that schedules for us and then our financial girl. He helps us catch stuff. He is our biggest cheerleader. There are some days when just are like, "Oh my gosh, this is hard." He just is like, "You've got this. You all are awesome." He is the only male on our team. It's crazy what role they can play for ... We're a team full of ladies, that I just feel like I can encourage the team and I know that my words mean a lot to them, but when he does, I feel like it's like, "Oh my gosh, he believes in me." He has a huge role. We definitely do have different roles, but we are always making decisions together. We are constantly coming back to each other and meeting up and saying, "Okay, what do you think about this?" Just making sure that we're not just haphazardly going down two different lanes, that we're on the same lane always.

Shantel: Well, he sounds like a great teammate. Are you primarily focused on the design side?

Anisa: Yes. Something that I didn't realize as an entrepreneur when you are growing a team how much time you'll need to spend investing in them and just being intentional. I think, my job is meeting with clients, designing, but also maintaining our team and making sure everyone's healthy and the relationships there, and encouraging. My biggest weakness and my biggest struggle I say is delegating, so just learning how to like, "Okay." I'm just such like, "Oh, I'll just get it done." I just keep piling and piling and piling stuff on my plate.

My husband would be like, "You know, you can delegate that. I'm like, "Oh, I'll just do that. I'll just do it." He's like, "Anisa, like, let it go." I am just learning to delegate to my team and encourage.

Shantel: Absolutely. Do you still love the design piece or has it taken on a new meaning now that you are an entrepreneur?

Anisa: I still love it. It's what makes my heart flutter. I absolutely love it. When we get to install days and I get to style a bookcase, or it might be putting books on a coffee table or cutting flowers, but when I look around and I see our team and they're happy and they're giddy about those days, I still love design. I think the whole reason is the reveal. It's like, "Gosh, you spent months and months planning something, and then you get this finished products." It's not like HGTV that it happens in a 30-minute TV program. It is months, and in some cases with new builds, years before you get that aha moment, that when those clients are happy, it's incredible. It's such a great feeling and it's energizing. It perpetuates it to do it again and keep doing it and doing it and doing it. Some people will do a renovation and like, "I'll never do that again," but then you look at the finished product and you quickly forget how inconvenienced you were and how frustrating the process could have been, but then shortly after, you're like, "Let's redo the bathroom." I do that for a living, and I love it. It's stressful, but I sure love it.

Shantel: I was gonna ask you if it was like Chip and Joanna Gaines, how they do the reveal, and it's a big moment. I mean, is it pretty similar to that and that you guys finished decorating, and then they come in and see it for the first time?

Anisa: Sometimes. Sometimes not. I definitely feel like that is part television. I wish it could always be like that. We definitely have had those moments where we're like, "Okay, are you ready to come in and turn the corner, and the client screams? And then it's the best moment." Truthfully, the clients are needing to come home and use their kitchen, and you're redoing their living room and they're gonna see it. You can't always just put up a huge wall and cover everything that they can't see through clear plastic, but there are definitely those moments. There definitely is a lot of stress, a lot of details, but it's worth it for the reward.

Shantel: That's amazing. You're a mom of four as well.

Anisa: Yes.

Shantel: That's what's on the website. How do you optimize your day?

| HEALTH & DISCIPLINE |

Anisa: Well, I'm trying to be better at just managing my time. It's crazy. I've never been like a real healthy person. I'm like, "Oh, I eat okay. I don't eat fast food every day." My version of healthy is Chick-fil-A. I could eat Chick-fil-A every day. I can say I live off of Char Grilled chicken sandwiches because they're great, but if you add french fries, maybe not. I really feel like I'm trying more and more to get discipline so I try to work out five days a week. I'm getting up at six, going to the gym. While having quiet time, going to the gym, and then when I get back, my amazing husband is there and has the kids ready to ...

I cart one to school, and I get a little bit of time with her in the morning and then I come back, and then he goes to the gym. Then I spend quality time with the kids before we get the day started. I've realized that I've got to be proactive and intentional or else I won't get anything done. I can just rabbit trail and, "Oh, I'm gonna go check that email," and then I see a load of laundry that needs to be folded. Then that doesn't get done because I forgot to make the kids' lunches. Before you know it, I never got to that email.

So just trying to be disciplined of, "Okay, we make lunches at night so we don't have to do it in the morning. The kids pick out their clothes before school." We have to be disciplined, otherwise we're just a hot mess. We're still a hot mess, but I've just realized that it's helped. I've only taken my health seriously, honestly, in the last, I think, it's been nine weeks. I've seen such a transformation in my energy and just in my head space. I'm thankfully seeing a little bit physically. I'm stronger, but I'm not doing it for my physique necessarily, but I wanna to be a strong mom.

I want to be later in life being able to throw my kids around and pick them up and my grandkids, and just realizing that I have to make that decision now. In my last pregnancy, I didn't take care of myself and so I feel like paying for that still. She's a-year-and-a-half old. I feel like just finally gonna be like, "I'm gonna take care of my health. I'm 35 years old. I still feel like I'm in my prime. There's no excuse." That has become really, really something that I'm focused on, so making sure I get that taken care of and then some quality time in the morning with the kids.

Then I usually start work, I would say, around nine. Then I'm working till about 2:30 or three every day. I don't have a super long day, but then once the kids go to bed, which probably isn't wise, but I'm present for the witching hour, they say. From three to seven, bath time and dinner and chaos. Then sometimes, I'll turn it on from 8:00 to 10:00 if there's any things that I just need to get out. Sometimes, I won't send that email out at 8:00 or 9:00 at night because I don't want the client to know I'm working on it, but that's my only time to get it done, especially if you're in meetings all day and you're like, "When do you check your emails?"

From maybe 8:00 to 10 or 8:00 to 11 at night, I'm trying to do that, or sometimes I'll just shut off and be like, "I'm watching a movie with my husband. This is not urgent." If it is, then I just send that email to go out at 7:00 in the morning instead of 11:00 at night.

Shantel: I can certainly relate to that. I'm in meetings all day, and I only have the chance to do emails at night, and so I actually just recently hired a VA through Shannon's company. She's been a guest on our show, through BELAY. It's been life changing to just have some help with email management so that I'm not logged in late at night. I can certainly relate, but I think it's amazing that you're not sending the email and really setting those strong expectations up front, clients can expect to email you at 10 and then assume that you're online like the other guys.

Anisa: Yes. I mean, I just gave away that I am online, but they won't know because their email is coming in at 7:00 or 8:00 in the morning. I can't imagine the emails and stuff that you get. It's just a lot to keep up with. Then with kids, you've got work emails but then the school emails, and trying to balance mom brain and work brain of like, "Oh yeah, I've got to be mystery reader on Wednesday," but then I've got to look over this estimate and not mess it up.

Shantel: I think it's amazing the health piece too. I think, as business owners, at least for me, it's been really easy to say, "Oh, you know, I have to get this email out, or I have to do this instead, or it is urgent, and really, my health should be at the top of the list, biggest priority, as opposed to at the bottom. I have not gotten into a good routine like you have, but you'll have to keep me updated because I'm certainly inspired.

Anisa: Oh Gosh. I will have to say it's nothing that I have mastered. I think, you find the thing that works for you, like, me going to the gym and if someone's like, "Hey, go workout for an hour," I'd be like, "Great." I lost. I walked for 30 minutes and burned 50 calories. I'm not gonna push myself. I'm just not driven like that. I do group fitness, and I found that works for me, and so I need someone, a coach yelling at me to keep going. Otherwise, I'll just take a nap on the floor. This is totally new for me. I'm not saying that it's anything I've mastered yet, but I've just had to change my lifestyle. It's going good so far so.

Shantel: Well, is there anything on your list that down the line you cannot wait to delegate?

Anisa: Oh man, down the line, I can't wait to delegate. That is such a good question. I feel like I'm still learning that, what to delegate. I probably still put too much on my plate, but I think letting people reply emails for me would be good. See, I'm inspired when you're having someone help you with that. I've got someone that is like in an assistant role, but I still am doing my own inbox. I think, me letting go of that could be good. That would be it.

Shantel: Well, that one is life changing, so we'll have to chat offline or do a followup. Why don't we do that?

Anisa: Yup.

Shantel: I just have a couple more questions for you, Anisa. My first is is there a one-piece of advice that certainly resonated with you that you heard from someone when you were starting your company, or one piece of advice you would give to someone who is starting a company right now?

| DON’T GIVE UP |

Anisa: Gosh, don't give up. It is really hard. I'm so thankful to Shannon Miles. I mean, she mentored me for a year and just put me under her wing. I think of the leadership and the tools. I still have this little black notebook from that year that I will glance back at. Se had us read tons of books that I would have never picked up. I mean, never, like financial statements. I'm like, "I'm okay. I think, I'll look at a magazine instead," but don't give up. It's hard work. You'll have failures. I've definitely made mistakes, sometimes costly ones, but I've learned that if you make mistakes, you probably won't do it again. You'll learn and grow from it, learning to delegate and hiring the right people. When I think of books and stuff, Shannon had us read Rich Dad Poor Dad, which was mind blowing for me. I also read, I'm gonna read again, E-Myth. That was, I think, for anyone starting their own company. Being an entrepreneur, you have these ideals and dreams and visions. E-Myth is just like ... It was a reality check. You need to be a manager and manage people and time and finances, but then the technician is getting the work done. I think I had this dream of like, "Oh, no, I just get to do the fun stuff." Sometimes you have to do all of the hard things and know what each position is required so you know how to teach that position when you have that person. I'm not a good teacher so that's been challenging, but I think, just don't give up and take care of your health for sure. You have to shut work off and take care of yourself.

Shantel: That's great. I Love he E-Myth book. It's just a great example and reminder to work on your business and not in it. It's really easy to get pulled into the weeds, but to think big picture carving out that time, one thing after I read that book, that someone mentioned to me is they carved out every Tuesday the full day. They would look at emails, but they would not take meetings. They would not take phone calls. They only worked on the business on those days because they had to just start putting something in the calendar so that they would not get pulled in to putting out the fires, which was so impactful to hear.

Anisa: Gosh, it's so crazy when you put a day on a calendar with yourself. I'll put a date on the calendar for a client meeting or a date night, and I'm like, "If I didn't put a date night down on a calendar with my husband, it will never happen." The same thing for goals and dreaming for your company. I think that is huge. That is something that I did learn. I'm not doing the best job at it, but it's so important to put it on your calendar and have a date with yourself, for your company to dream.

Shantel: Absolutely. Speaking of dreaming, where do you see your company going? What is next on the horizon for you guys?

Anisa: Gosh, well, hopefully continuing to just do a good job taking care of our clients and their needs, and definitely expanding, being able to take on more projects, even larger ones. I love full renovations and new builds, but also expanding our company. We almost moved to Nashville this past summer, and just felt like have a clear yes to go, but the timing was off, so expanding a branch of our company in Nashville, primarily the Franklin area. Then my lifelong dream has been to have a few stores so in some quaint areas. We live in Roswell, which is a historic little area in Georgia, the downtown of it. Then I love Franklin, Tennessee. We'll see. We'll see. Definitely, I'm always looking into real estate and property. I'm never gonna shut that dream down.

Shantel: Well, I can't wait to pop into one of your stores one day.

Anisa: Thank you.

Shantel: Keep us updated. Thank you so much for carving out the time.

Anisa: Gosh, thank you so much for having me. It's been an honor.