From Blank Slate to Test Program, Keypoint Difference Maker David Sweetnam Doesn’t Fear the Unknown

David Sweetnam

When it comes to Difference Makers, David Sweetnam is a bit of a unicorn. For starters, the director of lab services for EMEA and Asia at Keypoint Intelligence is one of only a handful of European-born honorees. He currently resides in England, home of the original football sport referred to in the states as the “S” word, the land where the letter U roams freely in vast numbers across the landscape, and the nation in which the letter Z is largely unwelcome, because the letter S can do most of the heavy lifting.

We digress. What makes Sweetnam singularly unique, aside from his wonderfully dry wit, is his status as a global Difference Maker, having made a lasting impact on virtually every continent. While his formal education yielded a chemistry degree (he may still refer to it…periodically), Sweetnam has fashioned a 30-plus year journey that weaved its way from office equipment sales rep in the mid-1990s to the doorstep of Keypoint Intelligence. Along the way, he shed the world of sales in favor of developing new testing programs for emerging markets and technologies.

He’s certainly left an indelible impression on Buyers Lab/Keypoint, having established lab testing operations in the U.K. and U.S. He’s led Keypoint’s update of its DTF/DTG office testing program, established the company’s brand in new industries (graphic arts signage, production cut-sheet and digital textile decoration) and coordinated multiple European testing advisory industry meetings. Sweetnam’s passport is dog-eared; he’s visited Japan more than 30 times since 2008 alone.

In order to develop tests, Sweetnam needs to become comfortable with the unknown, challenge himself and learn from others. “[I need to] be able to see the whole picture from the market itself to the drivers that are taking it forward,” he said. “With technology changing so rapidly, it is also very important to be able to adapt programs and make sure that they are keeping up with the evolving market and maintain their relevance. I think I do a pretty job at doing that, focusing more on the needs of what is needed tomorrow more than worrying about ‘that was not how we did it yesterday.’”

Invaluable Service

Sweetnam notes that a major aspect of his duties is to develop new testing programs for emerging markets and technologies. As new markets often evolve quickly, they typically require the most independent scrutiny by early adopter buyers and the channel, and become fully armed to better advise their clients.

“It is incredibly rewarding to see how quickly our test programs get adopted and trusted across the globe,” he added. “Having said that, every new test program is a challenge often taking me into unchartered territories that require a lot of research and visits to trade shows around the world, listening to those who are living and breathing the market, ensuring I am getting the full picture of the market and taking on board the real challenges that need addressing.

“This can, in the early days of development, often leave me doing a good impersonation of a swan; appearing serene and confident on the surface, but with feet (brain) madly active under the surface trying to keep up.”

One of the biggest influencers in Sweetnam’s career on the U.S. side is former Sharp President Ed McLaughlin. He met with McLaughlin on numerous occasions while stateside and came away with a broader understanding of the market. McLaughlin provided valuable insight into the macros factors that were shaping the business and “demonstrated knowledge of the individual cogs that make the business work,” Sweetnam offered.

The experience of working with key decision-makers in Japan beginning in 2008 has been among the most impactful of his career, as it was vital to developing new testing programs. Having that in-person interaction proved far more effective than emails and conference calls. On that first trip, he spent two weeks traveling city to city, gleaning insights and clarity while forging meaningful relationships.

Moving forward, Sweetnam’s prime objectives include growing the DTF/DTG service by extending it to include automation, film, ink and apparel testing capabilities. He’s also keen on building out lab capabilities to keep pace with changing market needs. Lastly, he hopes to introduce a new test service for the fast-emerging pigment ink-based direct to fabric market.

Warp Speed

Sweetnam also has a couple of viable initiatives in place to elevate the quality of his performance. “Invent a Star Trek teleporter, allowing me to get to Asia and back in a second, and a time capsule to instantly remove jetlag from my rather creaking old body,” he noted.

Away from the office, Sweetnam has been married to his “long-suffering wife” Sally for 22 years. They have two children, Emily, 20, and Harry, 18, the latter of which will be bound for university in the fall. Rounding out the brood is Pumpkin, a black-and-white cat with “Freddy Krueger tendencies,” and Monty, an affectionate Papillon dog with presumably no murderous intentions. An unabashed foodie, Sweetnam loves sampling new cuisines and ingredients while globetrotting (“the crazier, the better”) and making a mess of the kitchen in processing his own culinary masterpieces.

He is also consumed by sports, be it Liverpool football, Wales rugby or England cricket. And Sweetnam derives great enjoyment from watching his son play cricket for the local team.

“With my son due to go to university this September, we will be entering empty nest,” he said. “So I have big plans for more mini breaks, with Sally investigating some of the amazing Eastern Europe cities that have been on my travel bucket list for years.”

Erik Cagle
About the Author
Erik Cagle is the editorial director of ENX Magazine. He is an author, writer and editor who spent 18 years covering the commercial printing industry.