Lyde Spann, the Founder and CEO of netamorphosis, a digital branding and marketing growth agency, is passionate about helping companies, entrepreneurs, and organizations realize their full potential in the digital economy. netamorphosis was founded on Lyde Spann’s collective 18 years of experience as the head of digital and omnichannel operations for such innovators as Zara (one of the largest fashion retailers in the world, best known for disrupting the supply chain), MoMA, where she triangulated the visitor-member-shopper experience following the museum’s acclaimed Manhattan re-opening, and west elm, where she conceived of westelm.com’s go-to-market eCommerce strategy and speared the launch of westelm.com, which in the words of west elm’s president, “…revolutionized eCommerce at Williams-Sonoma Inc,” driving nearly 60% of total brand revenues following its first year online.
Lyde got her start in web technologies in San Francisco during the .com days of the late ‘90s, where she helped lease web application development for such notable Fortune 500 companies as: JP Morgan Chase, Morgan Stanley, Wells Fargo, General Motors, Daimler Chrysler, NY Life Insurance and Prudential.
In 2016, she was recognized as a Stevie Silver Award Winner for Female Entrepreneur of the Year – Business Services.
Lyde Spann attended the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where she received a BA in European History, Art History, and International Relations. She has lived and worked in Spain, Japan, London, Italy, San Francisco, North Carolina, and New York City.
Where did the idea for netamorphosis come from?
What’s in a name? Well, when you create branded platforms for a living…everything. For a company centered around navigating change and digital transformation, internet technologies, and net income (i.e., achieving significant EBITDA profitability) in 2009, more than 20 years after the worldwide web was invented, the fact that the name netamorphosis was available means we’re destined to be doing exactly what we’re doing.
What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?
I tend to be an early riser and a creature of routine during my work week, which frees up my thinking. For example, my A.M. routine prepares me for what lies ahead, typically a calendar filled with 20+ client and sprint style meetings and 10 – 12 hour working days on the regular. When I started netamorphosis, for the first time in my career I prioritized a daily AM yoga/meditation practice that I’m still pretty religious about, and I eat the same food (for breakfast, lunch, and afternoon snacks) 90% of the year, and have for 8 years or so. I’ve found this healthy approach to daily contemplative exercise, and a healthy regular diet (fruits, vegetables, protein, fish) has led to more even and energetically productive workdays within an intense work environment.
How do you bring ideas to life?
At netamorphosis, we believe in a collaboration model in our creative process, be it developing a financial model, devising a new digital brand, or bringing an exciting mission-driven social campaign to launch. Collaboration starts in our Strategy phase, combining deep discovery group Q&As and ideation sessions alongside a similarly deep comp analysis within direct competitors and aspirational brand/digital platform benchmarking criteria. We then back any creative UX/product development by KPI forecasts. If we are finalizing a purely creative decision, such as a logo, new web page design, or campaign design, we vote as a group on preferences. Whichever side of the vote wins finalizes that decision. Lastly, as we are in a digital, live environment with most things we bring to life, we test and learn, iterate and evolve, so in essence, our ideas never stop coming to life.
What’s one trend that excites you?
If I am being honest, I can’t pinpoint one trend that I’m excited about. I could say, because I’m a native digital pioneer, and our business grew +40% last year and continues to grow as we’ve moved to a predominantly virtual workforce, we are positioned in the right field of business, but simultaneously, there has never been a more challenging environment in which to hire and retain workforce, which limits our ability to scale, and as a self-starting, serial entrepreneur is difficult for me to fully empathize with.
What I recognize, while we’re still in the midst of a global pandemic, a downtrodden economy, and global warming at all-time highs, is there is a lot of work to do in order to reverse the trends we are seeing today. As an entrepreneur, who built a career out of change and transformation, that excites me. The fact that there can be a brighter future than where we are today.
What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?
I’ve always been disciplined. My mother says that when I was in high school, she never knew what day I had a test because I would study after school until I went to sleep each night. Similarly, when I have launch brands into the unknown and in the early self-doubting days of netamorphosis, my mantra was, I’ll bag the entrepreneurial endeavor, once I’ve executed everything I know. I’m grateful to say that 11 years later, the end of that road no longer appears to be in sight.
What advice would you give your younger self?
I’ve always had very high standards in almost all facets of my life. I used to relax those standards within professional relations, be it a client relationship or perhaps a team member or employee who wasn’t the right fit, in an attempt to salvage the relationship or avoid an uncomfortable situation. I wish I would have learned about clearer communication, agreements, being aligned on goals and objectives as a means to avoid what can become murky territory resulting in less successful situations that ultimately put my own work product at risk. Now, thankfully, I have the sounding board of a management team to provide counsel on the handling of those trickier situations, but when I was the head of a $37M online endeavor (westelm.com) at the age of 25 years old, I did not yet have the wherewithal in which to navigate complex interpersonal – professional dynamics and wish I had the knowledge to seek expertise sooner in my career.
Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on.
I laugh with my family, that what Covid has taught me is that I’m just not talented or good at housekeeping or doing the dishes. My family likes to tell me that that is a load of baloney, as I get out of my turn to do the dishes. So not too many people agreeing with me on that one!
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
Take vacations even when you’re busy and don’t think you can. I learned this as I was contemplating a CEO job at a glamorous fashion company, that ultimately, I ended up not taking. In the final interview process with the Chairman of the Private Equity ownership, he advocated that I take a vacation 1x a quarter to remove myself from the day-to-day stress and pressure to gain perspective. While in my own business, I’ve moved from quarterly breaks to longer breaks two times a year, I’ve found that I return to work clearer on strategic objectives, am energetic, inspired, and certainly a more resilient manager.
What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?
One of the greatest lessons as an entrepreneur is about pivoting and continuing to meet customer’s needs with whatever your product/service offering may be. At the outset of netamorphosis’ inception, we were simply a Strategy company, where I would guide entrepreneurs on what investments I would make to launch or re-platform a digital channel/brand. When I noticed that oftentimes the entrepreneur or organization couldn’t execute against those initiatives, I began retaining contractors to help execute, bringing those initiatives and tactics to life, in what would be a traditional agency model, designing and developing websites, prior to helping the client transition the management of the website in house. When I realized through KPI degradation and often creative integrity becoming compromised from what had been built, given a lack of technical resources in-house, we evolved once more to become a dynamic, agile, incentivized outsourced CMO resource. For the salary, of what might be a Director of Ecommerce or Marketing, who is often reliant on vendor relationships, we were able to provide seven technical resources for the salary of one, with the advantage of sharp implementation skills. This looks like a Director of Marketing/Strategist, UX Designer, Dev Manager, SEO specialist, Creative/Social Manager, Project Manager, Data Analyst. With the advantage of the swiss army knife resource structure and lack of employee cost, we couple this structure with a quarterly or bi-annual incentivization. Since we put this model into place 4 years ago, we’ve not once missed an accelerated growth projection, and both our client businesses (often start-up endeavors) and our own agency business have reached new heights of success.
What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?
There have been too many to count at this stage in my entrepreneurial journey. But as it relates to netamorphosis, in the early days when I was practicing as a solo consultant, I was reliant upon vendor relationships that often weren’t vetted or were inherited (meaning that my client had a pre-existing relationship or recommendation from a friend). In one scenario, even though I had vetted a development shop, I did not conduct enough due diligence in the quality of their development of a video streaming platform (very challenging from a host/bandwidth standpoint). This was a global fashion week live-streaming start-up, and when the time came for the platform to be delivered one week before New York Fashion Week for QA/UAT (i.e., staging), it was uninhabitable. It was one of the worst experiences of my professional life. Even four weeks later, after both the London and Milan fashion shows had concluded, it barely went live right before the final shows in Paris. While I ran into other challenging scenarios in the early days, where some key partners were not solidified, through a test and learn on smaller projects, today we have an incredibly solid resource structure, where gratefully we haven’t missed deadlines or quality of website platform deliveries in recent years.
What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
I’ll provide 2 for good measure:
We are animal people – a free app that connects animal shelters with people that want to have a pet but can’t. You could either come in and volunteer or have a service that brings the pets to people to spend time with.
An apparel and goods brand that uses the Precious Metal Machine to create products directly from neighborhood waste as a performance experience. Let people throw in their Starbucks alongside the other plastic and walk out with a (very expensive) unique phone case or something useful.
What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?
Sparkling Cider and Milk Bar truffles to surprise my upcoming maid of honor (and future 12-year-old stepdaughter) with a fancy set-up (Crate & Barrel champagne glasses) at the alterations’ venue. It is always rewarding to provide someone else a moment of delight/joy when they least expect it. And that goes for special moments of delight for our team members, partners, and clients.
What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive?
It’s a tie between Google Calendar which I live by, in order to stay focused, and Slack which our team uses for frequent communication and has become our ‘virtual office’ during the pandemic.
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?
The E-Myth Mastery – As I didn’t know where or how to start my self-financed business, netamorphosis, out of my 311ft. apartment in NYC. The thought of writing a business plan was daunting and overwhelming. I sought knowledge from books at the time ranging from Harvard Business Review to Jack – Straight from the Gut (Jack Welsh, the former CEO of GE). I found The E-Myth Mastery the most approachable, pragmatic, and fundamental in which to put one foot in front of the other, particularly as I strove to compile my business model.
What is your favorite quote?
“To achieve great things, two things are needed; a plan, and not quite enough time.” Steve Jobs
- Collaboration is effective communication. Both from ideation and execution perspectives. Group thinking typically yields better results vs. pure autonomy, particularly with creative IP/product prior to A/B testing. Whenever our deliverables get ‘off track’ it’s due to a breakdown of communication across our client and internal teams.
- Taking care of yourself and gettering your needs met allows you to do your best work.
- Entrepreneurialism is a marathon, not a sprint. Consistency is key. It’s better to work at 80% capacity more of the time than at 120% capacity some of the time, and prioritization definition is essential in a fast-paced digital environment.
- Cultivate mentorship and invest in management to provide expertise in key functional areas – in other words, hire people smarter than you.
Mario Schulzke is the Founder of ideamensch, which he started a decade ago to learn from entrepreneurs and give them a platform for their ideas.