How the right strategy in pricing can make small and medium sized businesses become sustainable without chasing profit at all costs.
Interview with Janene Liston, the Pricing Lady | by Darie Nani
Pricing is the most important profit driver a company has. Whether the pricing strategy, price setting, pricing architecture, discount structure or communication, getting pricing right impacts the bottom line. Janene is an international pricing expert and one of the most trusted partners for businesses with a yearly revenue of up to 35M USD across many industries.
Young businesses hire her to help them price with more confidence, building profitable businesses, that can sustain growth. Established businesses bring her in to help grow their profits and revenue by improving how they manage pricing. Whether launching new products or services, designing a new strategy or improving upon what’s already there, Janene’s approach gives businesses the skills to make better pricing decisions. Raised in California, Janene lives in Switzerland.
After graduating with a degree in Architectural Engineering, she relocated to Connecticut in 1993 where she designed all types of structures and buildings, from houses and churches to office buildings, schools and shopping malls. However, it became clear that this was not her true calling. Her change in career brought her to Switzerland in 2001, where she worked in product management and marketing for a large multi national. It was here where Janene first started to understand the power of pricing.
When she decided to stay in Switzerland, she took a new job as Global Pricing Manager. It was during this time she became one of the first 60 people worldwide to receive the Certified Pricing Professional designation. She spent years traveling the world implementing global pricing frameworks and supporting the local entities on how to improve their pricing strategy. Towards the end she surprisingly found herself in a burnout. She realized while she loved pricing, that the corporate world wasn’t where she wanted to be long term nor who she wanted to be. She left her corporate job and found the courage to take the first step into a better way forward.
You are known for your many talents and you excel at everything you decide to do. Your passion for helping other people made you master your public speaking skills and you became a Toastmasters European Humorous Speech Champion. How exactly did you become the Pricing Lady?
When I started my business, I didn’t know what to call myself; a coach, consultant, mentor… none of them seem to really fit and I was struggling with what to call myself. When I was in the corporate world and would meet new colleagues as I travelled, I would introduce myself many would reply with “Yes. I know you. You’re the Pricing Lady!” We’d laugh. The more I thought about, the more I realized that was it. Why not just embrace the name that had been given to me organically?
What inspired you to create your business?
Two things. First, one of the things I love about my career is that I’ve worked in so many different industries. I wanted to not just help one or two companies, but help as many businesses as possible build healthy, sustainably profitable businesses.
Second, I’ve seen how smaller and young business struggle with the topic. Starting a business is hard and takes a lot of work. Starting right is important. A profitable business is a healthy one and one that can grow. I love nothing more than helping business owners start right with pricing and build a sustainable business that can grow at a healthy pace.
What has been your biggest challenge in starting your own business?
I didn’t understand that starting a business is really about a personal journey. I love learning new things so in many ways I’m in my own element. It’s exciting. Yet I needed to change the way I think and see the world and how I make decisions. Thinking like a business owner is very different than thinking like an employee. When I heard that, before I started the business, I would nod my head knowingly; like I understood but I don’t believe that I truly understood it until now. That transformation is the biggest challenge I have faced for sure. It’s fun, exciting and difficult too.
What is the biggest impact you are making?
I’m helping build healthy, sustainably profitable businesses. It’s not about chasing profit at all costs. It is about giving a business the chance to make the most informed decisions when it come to what affects their profitability the most – i.e. prices. Even more, I’m helping people build their confidence as business owners. I see the transformation it brings individuals and companies. It brings me real joy.
Pricing is a tool that most companies are still learning how to use most effectively. Often times they are chasing the perfect price (which in to my mind doesn’t exist) when instead they should be asking themselves what can this price do for their business. How is it helping the business and its customers? Prices can work for or against a business, my job is to ensure they get it right.
How does it work?
It depends on if it’s an established business or a new one. In established businesses we first need to understand the status quo. What are they doing currently? What’s working? What’s not? Etc… Then we start to look at how we can align their pricing strategy to support their overall business strategy. Then we get into the details and build pricing to enable all that.
In new businesses the first step is often to help them understand what we’re talking about. Pricing is a much bigger topic than most people realize. You can’t just set a price and expect people to buy. You have to learn how to work with the prices. Most importantly you have to manage them over time. When a business gets this right from the get go, they can become profitable much quicker.
Now that you are the Pricing Lady, do you still miss Architectural Engineering?
I wouldn’t say I miss the job but I am still fascinated by architecture, especially bridges. One of my favourites is Ganterbrücke in Valais. I wrote a paper about it in University (at that time with no clue life would lead me to live in Switzerland). Once when on a road trip with friends I was driving us to Italy up and over Simplon pass. As the bridge came into view I go so excited and started yelling “my bridge, my bridge.” My friends had no clue what was happening. Just that I’d pulled the car over and was screaming for someone to hand me a camera. So yes, I really love bridges!
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