Up Close is Sourcing Journal’s regular check-in with industry executives to get their take on topics ranging from personal style to their company’s latest moves. In this Q&A, Albert Busch, CEO of color management solution firm Datacolor, discusses his investment approach toward shopping and how his company is helping fashion collaborate remotely.
Name: Albert Busch
Which other industry has the best handle on the supply chain? What can apparel learn?
I believe any supply chain can learn something from any other supply chain. There are always best practices between and within industries. We’ve seen this in the textile and apparel industry with the Datacolor Textile Summit, which brings together color teams from across the industry to share knowledge and know-how. Even those who work in the same industry may have different supply chains.
Also, as a company, Datacolor is active in several other supply chains, including automotive, paint and coatings, so we’re uniquely positioned to translate best practices from one industry to the other.
How would you describe yourself as a consumer?
I’m not a big consumer. My closet has three pairs of pants and five shirts that will last me forever. I’ll buy what is needed, but I will only buy high-quality products. Not because of brand, but because there’s a return on investment and it makes the purchase more sustainable. I think it has to do with my European background, but I can’t stand buying something and having to throw it away.
I am a big fan of online shopping for the things I do need, and was that way long before Covid-19. I was probably one of the first users of Amazon because of the convenience and because I don’t enjoy going into a store. The internet has shown how easy it is to compare products and get all the information needed.
As a consumer, what does it take to win your loyalty?
A product has to be good quality. Equally important is the service surrounding that product. If you have an issue, it should be easy to interact with the brand, return it or get it fixed. I own a lot of Apple products, because I bought into the quality of them and also the service. It’s much more about return on investment—knowing they have a longer lifetime. I’ve used Apple computers for eight years, and the brand is there for you when you need them. I also look at Datacolor this way. It’s not just about providing a product, but about being there for the customer.
What’s your typical work uniform?
Datacolor’s work environment has been casual for a long time. My typical work uniform consists of something that takes me 30 seconds to get dressed.
Which fashion era is your favorite?
I can’t say I have a favorite fashion era. I tend to go where fashion takes us.
Who’s your style icon?
Steve Jobs or Mark Zuckerberg—people who have simplified the process of clothing and getting dressed to shift the focus to other things in life.
What’s the best decision your company has made in the last year?
Despite the Covid-19 crisis, we have continued to move forward with products and solutions that will carry us well into the future. Back in March, we were already prepared as a global team to work remotely and support customers remotely. We were also able to adapt our solutions to the new needs that came with remote work. This momentum has continued into 2021.
How would you describe your corporate culture?
We’re resilient. In the face of an unprecedented global crisis, our team presented a united front that was committed to ensuring we could continue operations and support our customers in getting their colors right. We’re also innovative, driven and supportive. We work hard to foster creative thinking and support the valuable ideas that our team brings to the table every day, while also delivering industry-leading solutions and support for our customers. I’ve always been impressed by our people, but this past year solidified just how exceptional each of them truly is.
What can companies learn from Covid-19?
The importance of connectivity and adaptability. There has been—and many anticipate there will continue to be—a significant shift toward remote work, which will in turn reduce travel. This trend mandates an increased reliance on digital tools that allow manufacturers and brands to continue their work and collaborate effectively, even when they’re separated. Many companies have found they can adapt to these shifts and have embraced digital technologies that are redefining workflows.
What should be the apparel industry’s top priority now?
The industry’s top priority should be shoring up any inefficiencies and weak points that came to light during the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic. And this is where digital color management can really be helpful. From elimination of physical samples and reduced travel to first-shot color matching and using recycled materials that reduce waste, digital color management increases efficiencies throughout nearly every step of the textile and apparel color workflow and across the supply chain.
What keeps you up at night?
Whether we’ve prepared ourselves and our customers adequately to face the unknown. This past year has shown just how radically our society and industry can shift in a short timeframe and just how immense the impacts can be. Thankfully, we had the structures in place to respond quickly and effectively this past year, both to continue operations internally and to support our customers.
What makes you most optimistic?
Our people. They’ve shown me that we can pretty much handle anything. We’ve gone through a financial crisis and now Covid-19 together, and we not only got through it but thrived through it. Our team has shown me that we have the ability to adjust course. That makes me fundamentally optimistic.
I’m also optimistic because of the new technology becoming available that will allow us to provide new services, from cloud-based software to analytics offerings to sensor technologies.
Tell us about your company’s latest product introduction:
We just launched the new generation of our flagship color measurement instruments, the Datacolor 1000 series. Our team built these new spectrophotometers with multiple features that will support our customers’ needs well into the future, including the technology necessary for future remote services and access to data analytics.