Impact Pricing Podcast

Ep169: Pricing Job Market Trend 2022: The Rise of Hybrid Workforce with Jon Jennings

 

Jon Jennings is the Founder and Managing Partner of Jennings Executive Search, LLC. Jon is an official sponsor of this podcast. He began his career with a boutique recruiting firm, building relationships with C-Level accounting and finance professionals utilizing a research-based approach of study and analysis to best serve his clients.

In 2012, Jon took this approach to a larger firm where he worked with several CFOs to build entire accounting and finance departments and gain a large firm perspective in how to build a successful practice. This experience led to the creation of Jennings Executive Search, LLC.

In this episode, Jon discusses the current situation of the pricing market, specifically focusing on how things have developed since the pandemic began.

Why you have to check out today’s podcast:

  • Discover how the market has been like since the beginning of this pandemic
  • Learn about the difference of hybrid, in office, and at home settings, as well as how this difference influence today’s job search
  • Find out why those people who are willing to learn the soft skills of pricing are the ones who are more likely to be promoted in a company

              

“The people who get to move up are people who are adamant. They’re persistent. They’re not afraid to be uncomfortable in an uncomfortable conversation.” 

Jon Jennings

           

Topics Covered:

01:28 – The market’s situation since the pandemic began

04:17 – Talking about the expansion of pricing

06:01 – Everyone trying to figure out how to raise prices and putting hyper focus on it

08:49 – Are pricing people getting paid a lot more now than they were a year ago?

12:18 – Companies still not investing in pricing

14:48 – Are the requirements changing for pricing people?

18:35 – Those who are willing to learn make the biggest impact in a company

20:27 – How the difference between hybrid, in office, and at home settings influence today’s jobs

24:29 – Jon’s piece of pricing advice for today’s listeners

         

Key Takeaways: 

“What’s really happening in pricing has been happening for a long time, which is it’s expanding; there’s more jobs in pricing, and kind of separate to the current economic phenomena that we’ve seen over the last few years, it’s been a space that’s grown.” – Jon Jennings

“There’s a lot of openings in pricing and it’s hard to find qualified people for them at the moment.” – Jon Jennings

“I call it fittest athletes search. We just find the person that’s most capable and learn the fastest and can just solve problems, solve business problems; they’d like to get in the business and figure things out and communicate cross functionally. Those are the traits I like to look for.” – Jon Jennings

“The really good ones have a creative type of mind; not just they’re good at analytics, but they have that creative side turned on and they can communicate very well. It’s like yet to be everything at the same time. Those people are really impactful.” – Jon Jennings

“You have to articulate the right way, that’s digestible and understandable, and you got to win that meeting; and that’s where you have to sell yourself, your abilities, all the time. That’s really what makes you promotable.” – Jon Jennings

“The way to have a big impact on your career is always selling. There’s never a perfect solution; there’s better and best. When you have something, be confident and don’t back down. The squeaky wheel gets grease.” – Jon Jennings

 

People / Resources Mentioned:

Connect with Jon Jennings:

Connect with Mark Stiving:   

             

Full Interview Transcript

(Note: This transcript was created with an AI transcription service. Please forgive any transcription or grammatical errors. We probably sounded better in real life.)

Jon Jennings

The people who get to move up are people who are adamant. They’re persistent. They’re not afraid to be uncomfortable in an uncomfortable conversation. So, I would say, always kind of push when you have something, when you’ve walked around it, you know this is the right move. I wouldn’t say just run everyone over, but definitely make your voice heard over and over again, if you have to.

[Intro]

Mark Stiving

Welcome to Impact Pricing, the podcast where we discuss pricing, value, and the lucrative relationship between them. I’m Mark Stiving. Today, our guest is Jon Jennings. Here are three things you’d want to know about Jon before we start.

He is the Managing Partner of Jennings Executive Search, a recruiter specializing in pricing. And by the way, he’s an official sponsor of this podcast, so thank you, Jon. He was on episode 119, a year ago, so if you want to know about Jon’s background and even more about pricing professionals, go check that one out. And he’s a huge snow skier, even though he lives and was raised in the south. Go figure.

Welcome, Jon.

Jon Jennings

Hey, Mark. Glad to be here.

Mark Stiving

Hey, it’s going to be fun.

Okay. So, I asked you back this time, because I have been super curious about what’s going on in the world of pricing professionals, looking for jobs, companies trying to hire pricing professionals. We had a little talk just beforehand. Do you see this market ticking up right now?

Jon Jennings

Yeah, it’s been ticking up. It’s running hot.

Mark Stiving

Running hot. And so, do you have any explanations, guesses what’s going on?

Jon Jennings

Well, there’s a lot of things going on that we can see. The number of job openings has increased. A lot of companies, I don’t know, due to the pandemic caused some things with a delay in M&A activity; that’s one thing. And then, kind of with low interest rates and a prime market once we kind of came out of the lockdown, a lot of transactions started happening, and that’s created more and more jobs, more and more strain on consulting. And we’re seeing, also, the ecommerce world kind of had gasoline just poured all over it, and you see kind of that tech boom, which you’re seeing the pullback in the stock market a little bit. But what’s happening on the ground is a lot more job openings and a fixed supply. There’s not more people coming in the markets; there’s actually less. We had more people kind of retire early through the pandemic. You had people getting/take different career paths, be more entrepreneurial. And now, everybody, what happened with M&A, okay, there’s a stop to M&A activity, essentially, and then a massive boom.

Same thing happens at hiring. Everyone has a hiring freeze, or a lot of companies, majority, they went with a hiring freeze, especially early stages of the pandemic, and then they released; the hiring freeze released. Well, a lot of these companies continue to have success, and now, they’re hiring those reqs, and now they have more reqs as they continue to grow. And that created a lot of pressure right there, just kind of the increased demand for a short period of time really messed up supply from a candidate’s perspective. So, you have people make job moves, and then you just kind of just go a domino effect down the road.

And so now, I think today, there’s like 11.2 million job openings and 6.3 million unemployed. And so back in the summer, it was like 10 million openings and nine or something unemployed, something like that, as from like, macro statistics standpoint. And so, it just kind of keeps ticking up a little hotter every quarter.

Mark Stiving

So, if those 11.2 million job openings, how many of them are for pricing people?

Jon Jennings

That’s a great question. I wish I had that data for you.

Mark Stiving

Me too.

So, let’s just focus on the company side for a second and trying to hire people. It makes a lot of sense that the first year of the pandemic, people were so uncertain; they just shut down hiring and they said “We’re not going to do anything.” And then as they said, “Okay, we’re all going to work from Zoom. We still have a company, we still have to run, so let’s open up reqs again.” Do you think pricing reqs are opening at the same rate faster or slower than say the average employment or opening for these companies?

Jon Jennings

This is going to be more of an answer of, I don’t have data on this, but just what I’m seeing, I’m kind of drawing conclusions. What’s really happening in pricing has been happening for a long time, which is it’s expanding; there’s more jobs in pricing, and kind of separate to the current economic phenomena that we’ve seen over the last few years, it’s been a space that’s grown. And now, we’re maybe seeing more and more pressure on it, because I mean, you’ll get inflation. I mean, you’ve got to be able to grab price in this environment. A lot of people are focused on price, and people who don’t have any sophistication in their pricing side are getting railroaded by their competition, and it’s becoming very apparent that they’re having pricing issues, even some like large Fortune 500 companies that we’ve talked to.

So, you’re seeing more and more pressure for more analysts in pricing and more leaders. It’s a space that just continues to grow. And in this market, maybe it’s growing a little faster, and just because you’re seeing such a pressure on it, I mean, there’s a lot of openings in pricing and it’s hard to find qualified people for them at the moment.

Mark Stiving

Yeah. So, I would say, my business is, I’m getting way more inquiries than I’ve ever gotten for the types of work that I do, and I’d have to say the number one reason is every company is trying to figure out how to raise prices.

Jon Jennings

Yeah.

Mark Stiving

Every company.

Jon Jennings

Everyone.

Mark Stiving

And some may have strategy, some may not care and they just do it, and so I think that’s why I’m getting a ton of inquiries. I think you might see that, not only in an increase in job openings, but you might see that in a difference in the job specifications. Do you see that or have you recognized anything in the job specs you’ve been seeing that come through?

Jon Jennings

Well, I mean, we’ve worked roles recently where, previous, we need to be able to grab price, right now, with inflation. They’re focused on kind of inflationary items, and saying, “This is where we’re not having as much success.” They’re going to be measuring it. So, they’re thinking a lot more about their pricing group than they maybe they would in the past. And even smaller businesses where owners have been reluctant to kind of really push price increases on their customers, because they have got deep relationships there, whatever. They’re kind of now thinking, “Okay, well, we need a more dynamic pricing strategy,” where before, they’re like, “No, me and Bill go way back. I’m not going to raise price on them.” They’re like, “Well, screw that.”

We need to bring in somebody to help us with this. So that’s where I’ve seen some really increases in change of mentality there.

Mark Stiving

That was kind of interesting. And by the way, I never think of these things ahead of time. It’s always these conversations that caused me to think of these things. But what’s really interesting about that, is for the last 20 years, 30 years, 40 years, we haven’t had inflation. Price increases have been minimal. So, who out there really understands or has expertise and how to raise prices? It’s pretty fascinating.

Jon Jennings

Yeah, this is a new problem to solve, and there’s only so many people that focus on it. And the funny thing is, not to deviate too much, but in the pandemic, early on, like, if you look at kind of our micro level of what we worked on, what we filled, it was pricing. I mean, you think about it. During bad times, when you’re kind of worried, “Hey, we need to focus on price, the margins.”

Mark Stiving

At that point, it was how do we not lower price too much, too fast?

Jon Jennings

Though its extremes are where the pricing people are like the center of the conversation whenever they should have been along. And so, I think it creates a more of a hyper focus on the vertical.

Mark Stiving

Yeah. Absolutely.

And so, I actually started today’s podcasts off with saying “the lucrative relationship between them,” and I say that because my guess is pricing people are getting paid a lot more now than they were a year ago. Confirm or deny or elaborate.

Jon Jennings

Yeah, across the board. I mean, it’s everything. I would say it’s correlated with kind of finances increased, and a lot of different kind of marketing functions that have increased in pricing. What pricing has done is it’s getting closer to the C suite, and that’s been something that’s been more progressing over a decade versus the last couple of years. But I’m seeing the role being elevated to more of in the semis, large companies, depends on the title structure, the VP. It’s like the head versus like director or senior director. And so, we’ve seen that evolution and compensation has definitely increased.

One thing that’s driving it is, a lot of times, if you want to find the pricing person, you will look at a management consulting. I mean, we talked about that in the last podcast, as the kind of different types of talent to go after. And the world of consulting has been booming at a multiple versus like the traditional industry roles, as far as the compensation. Like McKinsey, for example, we found out recently, is paying their entry level, no Master’s degree, 130 base. Just first year, fresh out of college, maybe they didn’t intern, starting off at 130 base. And then, obviously there’s other firms to recruit out of, and we’ve seen Bain, for example, they’ve developed a niche pricing group; they didn’t have that before. I think it’s just been a couple of years old. And BCG, McKinsey are doing it. KPMG is doing it. I know all the Big Four, I think, are having these niche kind of pricing strategy groups. And then you have Simon Kucher and all the ones that you know, the firms that people are familiar with that specialize in pricing, but they’ve all increased salaries. We’re seeing managers, where they traditionally came into some of these boutique firms, out of business school, if they’re MBA, out of like 140-150 to go to 170-180, and now, sometimes, 190-210 base. So, you’ve seen these massive increases.

Well, we have to calibrate our clients. Look, if you want this profile, some of these consults will take a little bit of a haircut, but they’re not traveling as much. So, it’s not as much of a lifestyle move, so now you got to raise your salary, and it’s kind of affecting the entire market from a pricing perspective, whenever these consultants are now, they cost for a solid Senior Manager. Like, coming into industry as a Senior Manager, Current Engagement Manager, you’ve got to pay somewhere between 180-210 base now minimum, or before you get them like 165.

And so, you’re kind of evaluating talent differently; everything’s being pushed up. And so, we’re seeing kind of heads of pricing and Fortune 500s jumping from a base perspective into the high to hundreds, plus bonus and equity, and sometimes in some cases, low to mid three hundreds, and even beyond, in some cases, even higher. That’s more Fortune 50 than 500.

Mark Stiving

Sorry, Jon. I missed what you just said. I was working on my resume.

Jon Jennings

Yeah.

Mark Stiving

These are some pretty impressive numbers.

Jon Jennings

Yeah. I mean, it’s well deserved. A lot of candidates tell me, “Is there any way I can negotiate if I could just get like half a percent of my impact, or like, 1% of my impact? That could be my bonus.” Doesn’t work that way. Yeah. But when you talk to people about the impacts they made in organizations, and it’s like 7, 8, 9 figure impacts, and it’s like, wow; there’s definitely a value conversation to be had there versus costs.

Mark Stiving

Yeah. And what’s so fascinating is you can see those stories over and over again, and yet, there are still a lot of companies who don’t invest in pricing, which I just find incredible.

Jon Jennings

Yeah, and that’s one thing I understand. There’s bands and you got to stay within certain things. You can’t have pricing be paid way out of whack versus the rest of your work. But I would say, in the future, you better align it with sales comp versus finance comp, because it’s more real impact you can see. It’s like, a top salesperson is worth every penny you pay them. And top pricing person’s worth a multiple of that.

Mark Stiving

Right.

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Mark Stiving

So, are the requirements changing for pricing people when people are writing job reqs?

Jon Jennings

No.

Mark Stiving

No? Same?

Jon Jennings

I mean, we’re going to get more creative on where we go, especially the entry level. There’s just not enough people that are skilled in pricing. Because a lot of people in pricing, they started in finance or some marketing role or wherever, even sometimes engineers came up to operations and migrated to price. And so, we’re having to, you know. I’m working on a number of roles around the Manager, heavy Senior Analyst. Traditionally, we could find a lot of people that currently were in pricing. There’s just not as much talent out there, so we’re having to say, “Okay, let’s be a little more flexible and dive into finance and pull people that have more traditional finance and maybe some commercial exposure and coach them up.”

But yeah, I don’t think the requirements of what they’re looking for is changing. Maybe the job is changing a little bit, but I like the fit, I call it “fittest athletes search”. We just find the person that’s most capable and learn the fastest and can just solve problems, solve business problems; they’d like to get in the business and figure things out and communicate cross functionally. Those are the traits I like to look for. You have to learn the rest, but this market’s been enabling me to be more of “Okay, here’s the fitness athlete for your role versus all the X, Y, and Z that you want it.”

Mark Stiving

Yeah. So, I used to talk a lot about being a pricing champion and what did it take, and I broke it down into three big categories. Those were understanding pricing strategy, of course, understanding data, and then having leadership skills. So, I would think that if you could find somebody who was decent at data, truly thinking about it and what does it mean, that you could pretty quickly teach them about pricing strategy. Just send me the mail. I’ll teach them for you. And then the leadership stuff, most tech people struggle with that all the time. And so, it’s kind of like finding the right people who are able to talk to people in a tactful way.

Jon Jennings

Yes, that’s 100%. And yes, the core, that data analytics piece is kind of the foundation. And then the other pieces, you’ve got to build on top of it. And some people have the muster to kind of get there, and others just, you know, they don’t. It’s up to us to evaluate if someone kind of has those soft skills and if they’re capable of learning them. But really, it’s a self-awareness from the employees’ perspective of kind of learning those skills, and those are the people that end up being highly successful in pricing. It’s like, you have to be good at sales, you got to be good at analytics; it’s kind of you have to wear every hat in the business. Both sides of your brains have to be lit up. You got to have the creative piece too. And that’s why I’m fascinated with this space; it’s all the intricacies of the roles.

And I was talking to, I’m working with a firm. They do advertising, consulting. They think like mad men, and there’s tons of creative minds over there, so we’re trying to find people that kind of blend in that culture. And what we found in pricing is the really good ones have a creative type of mind; not just they’re good at analytics, but they have that creative side turned on and they can communicate very well. So, it’s like yet to be everything at the same time. And those people are really impactful.

Mark Stiving

Yeah. And so given the conversation we were just having, finding entry level people, you’re probably starting with data analysts from some part of the business and we find a way to pull them into pricing and then we coach them up into what does pricing mean. At most companies, pricing, most people who work in pricing at a company don’t think about pricing the way I think about pricing, right? They think about it from their company’s perspective, and so they can get to that point pretty easily. And then those that are willing to learn the soft skills are the ones that are going to get promoted and move up the ranks and have huge impacts in the company. And so that seems to me to make a lot of sense, from any way you can do this.

Jon Jennings

In a lot of analytics people, sales is kind of a dirty word. And I forgot who it was, there was a speaker that came to a client of mine that was talking to all the different employees. You’re selling and everything. Everything is selling, and you’re selling your analysis. Data speaks for itself, whatever, but you have to articulate the right way, that’s digestible and understandable and you got to win that meeting; and that’s where you have to sell yourself, your abilities, all the time. People kind of think that way. “Okay, I need to invest time and energy and really make sure I’m maximizing my ability to sell at all levels.” That’s really what makes you promotable.

Mark Stiving

Yeah. One of my favorite sayings for when I coach people and they get into the situation where they just have to be right is I ask, “Do you want to be right or do you want to be effective?”

Jon Jennings

Great question.

Mark Stiving

And as long as you focus on the goal, we want to be effective. So, I think that’s absolutely spot on.

What’s going on in your world that you see this difference between hybrid, in office, at home? Does that have any influence on the job search today?

Jon Jennings

Oh, yeah. I got some clients that are 100% in office, and it’s almost like, oh. That’s the outlier now.

Mark Stiving

Are they hardest to find employees for?

Jon Jennings

You know, I don’t know yet. I think so, but there’s a segment of people who want to go back. Now, those people are also like, “Five days a week? I want to go back, like three or four.” So yeah, those do present a unique challenge now, where before, it wouldn’t even be a discussion. It was a selling point if it was some remote. If they get one day from home, oh my gosh, that was great. Now, it’s kind of the opposite.

We’re seeing the companies, and I don’t know what’s right here, the companies that are doing more fully remote, we’re able to find talent and markets that are cheaper to live in. We can go broad and it’s easier to obtain talent when you’re fully remote. It just is. But we’re seeing a lot, most large companies are going to hybrid. Your Home Depot, here’s one to three days, back in. It seems like a lot of the Fortune 500s are kind of doing that model where they’re doing the Tuesday through Thursday in office and you get remote Monday and Friday. In a lot of these organizations, productivity would go up when people remote and kind of works offices in their house, they just work. It’s hard to turn it off. And so, we’re seeing a lot of the hybrid bite. It’s going to be a slow transition back to more in office.

I mean, I just started a new lease here. And we’re the only people on this floor. I’m expanding and we’re like hiring. I like being in office culture. I think there’s some things lost. It’s hard to learn, especially for lower, entry level. I mean, two years experience equals maybe one in a quarter of an office, like you just learn more being an offer, especially early on in your career. That’s my opinion. But yeah, I’m seeing it’s a detriment for talent acquisition, but maybe there’s a long-term win there. It’s a balance. I like the hybrid model; I think a lot of companies will end up landing there, and we’ll just see how it shakes out, but it definitely helps with recruitment. I find that fully remote, where there’s no office presence, there’s a segment of people that say, “No, I don’t want to do that anymore. I need to get out of the house.” So, both ends of the spectrum, I think, have some limitations.

Mark Stiving

So, for the hybrids, are they requiring you to be in a specific city now?

Jon Jennings

Yeah, it depends, but yes, essentially. I mean, I’ve got some roles where, okay, you just come up a week out of the month. You can fly in, and you’ll get like four days. Come in Monday morning and leave Thursday evening. Get those four days out of the month to be there for meetings and different things and just to show your face. But for the most part, it’s a few days in the office a week, so you do need to be within a distance that’s doable.

Mark Stiving

Yeah. I remember for most of my career, when I had real jobs, just walking talking to different people about opportunities or whatever was going on, is very different than today. It feels like I have to intentionally contact somebody if I want to talk, and then it’s like I’m interrupting them. It wasn’t just a random “let me bump into you in the office” space type of thing. So, it feels very different.

John Jennings

It is. And I don’t know how that works long term, the full remote thin; it’s a little weird, but there’s companies making it work who are doing a great job. I think for people, professionals that have been doing this for 10+ years, it’s a little bit easier, but I still think there’s some things lost there.

Mark Stiving

Alright.

Jon, we’re going to wrap this up. I’m going to slightly change my last question for you, so get ready. Hope you didn’t prepare an answer. So, here’s the last question. What’s the one piece of pricing advice you would give our listeners that you think could have a big impact on their career?

Jon Jennings

That’s a great question; pricing advice. I mean, the way to have a big impact on your career is, like we talked about earlier, is always selling. There’s never a perfect solution; there’s better and best. When you have something, be confident and don’t back down. The squeaky wheel gets grease. I mean, it’s true in business. The people who get to move up are people who are adamant. They’re persistent. They’re not afraid to be uncomfortable in an uncomfortable conversation. So, I would say, always kind of push when you have something, when you’ve walked around it, you know this is the right move. I wouldn’t say just run everyone over, but definitely make your voice heard over and over again, if you have to.

Mark Stiving

Yeah, I love that, and I’m going to add some nuance on what you just said, and feel free to agree or disagree with what I’m about to say. And that is, we can’t always be adamant, we can’t assume that we’re always right, but once in a while, we find that project, we find that opportunity, we see that it’s going to have a huge impact on the company if we push it, and then it’s time, right? Take it. Go push it. Sell it throughout the entire company. And when you’re successful with that, it will have a huge impact on your career.

Jon Jennings

100%. You don’t always. Sometimes, the traditional channels that you’re supposed to go through don’t work. Be a little bit more aggressive if you have to; not all the time. I mean, make sure it’s the right one to push. Just don’t back down would be my answer. Because a lot of people that I know well who are brilliant don’t do that enough, and often, I start coaching them to do that, and suddenly, they’re getting promotions. I had one guy reach out to me and say, “Stop giving me advice, Jon.” He’s like, “I don’t want any more responsibility. I’m good. I don’t want to manage any more people.”

Mark Stiving

“I’m making too much money. Leave it alone.”

Jon Jennings

He really told me that. It’s giving me anxiety. He’s like, “I’m good. I found the level that I like. I don’t want to go any higher.” Okay, cool.

Mark Stiving

Alright.

Jon, thank you so much for your time today. If anybody wants to contact you, how can they do that?

Jon Jennings

Reach out to me on LinkedIn, Jon Jennings. Send me an email, jon@jenningsexec.com. But you know, LinkedIn is the best way. And yeah, please reach out. Happy to be kind of career counselor, help you find jobs, help you place people on your teams. We solve business problems. I don’t like to think we just find people. We think about the business problem and then how we can solve it with the right person. And I’d love to have those conversations.

Mark Stiving

Awesome.

Episode 169 is all done. Thank you for listening. If you enjoyed this, would you please leave us a rating and a review? And finally, our goal is to help you win more business at higher prices, so if you have any questions or comments about this podcast or pricing in general, feel free to email me, mark@impactpricing.com.

Now, go make an impact.

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