“How did they do that? How did they get there?” Companies succeed because of the people who build them - operating leaders who grow businesses to new heights and make decisions every day that can impact entire industries. Each month, our Operator Spotlight gives you the inside track from one of our incredible Operator LPs (Limited Partners) who are changing the game – building and scaling some of the world’s most successful companies. Read on for lessons learned and mistakes made, perspectives from the top, practical advice, and ideas on what’s next.
This month, we chatted with Wendy Johnson, VP of Pricing at PagerDuty. Wendy has been leading the pricing transformation of Fortune 500 companies for the past decade. She began her pricing career almost 20 years ago at IBM. Prior to that, Wendy worked as a Consultant at Accenture, managing system integrations for Mergers & Acquisitions. Wendy holds a Bachelor of Science in Industrial Engineering from Florida A&M University and an MBA in Finance from Howard University.
Tell us a bit about the pricing role, what it entails, and where it sits within PagerDuty.
I joined PagerDuty at an interesting time in the company’s lifecycle. We were just beginning to expand beyond our initial core offering to a multi-product company. When I joined, customers, sellers, systems, processes were all designed and enabled around a simple, per user pricing model. Now we have a number of licensing metrics, both SaaS and on premise subscription models, and our latest consumption model for AIOps. For the first time in my career, I sit in the Product organization, reporting to our Chief Product Officer, and partnering closely with our product leadership. I advise on how best to monetize our innovation and drive execution of our monetization strategies.
You’ve been at the forefront of pricing for close to two decades - how has the role changed over time, and where do you see it going?
Most companies still hire pricing talent for pricing strategies. A pricing strategist that can help an organization incrementally increase deal sizes or price can drive significant top-line impact. Recently, I’m observing a greater appreciation for pricing operations. Organizations are realizing that even the best strategies have limited value if they can not be executed efficiently. Robust end-to-end pricing operations -- SKU creation, opportunity & quote configuration, discount authority, data management and analytics, pricing automation -- all of these drive the effectiveness of pricing execution in the field.
What practices have you adapted in response to the current macro environment, and any predictions on what’s to come?
Pricing has partnered closely with our customer success team to improve the risk-based metrics in the pricing impact models that drive decisions on pricing actions. We recognized that our buyers were changing at our customers, and models we relied on before no longer accurately represented the attributes for buying decisions. We had to slow down and retool.
What are your top recommendations for early-stage enterprise/B2B founders who are starting to think about pricing strategies?
Invest early in pricing talent to help start you off with a flexible pricing structure that contemplates growth. Without that, you will likely end up facing complex repackaging and migration decisions too soon. This is certainly doable, but can be costly and disruptive.
What’s one thing you’ve done successfully, personally or professionally, to empower the next generation of underrepresented leaders? What’s one thing you want to take on next?
So far, I have been able to always say yes when asked to mentor young talent. While much of pricing strategy is data driven, because of the riskiness in pricing actions, building trust becomes more important than analytical skills. I found in my career that even when all of the data points to a single answer, business owners are still nervous about decisions on pricing actions, and are looking to me for assurance of the results. I enjoy coaching young leaders the importance of building strong technical skills and balancing with an awareness of what motivates decision makers. Consistently getting the right answer gets you to a good place in your career. Getting others to act on your answer opens so many more opportunities.
What’s one piece of advice you would give to yourself 10 years ago, if you had the opportunity?
Trust your capabilities. Go for the job you think you are not ready for. In general, I took too long to move, believing I needed to learn more or develop more. That was not true. I really underestimated my talent and my value for a long time.
What’s your secret super power?
My secret super power is my lack of ego. So much of what drives unfavorable action is people anchoring on their own ideas or their own skills. I am truly always looking for the best outcome and not only open to others’ ideas, I welcome them. I welcome the opportunity to delegate tasks to people who can do them better than me. This attribute has helped me actually execute the projects I approach, where, according to a McKinsey 2021 study, 70% of organizational transformations are never achieved.