“I keep learning, keep looking out for new methods”

Pawel Komender

You can’t put a price on knowledge

Text by Andrew Howitt  /  Photos by Kageaki Smith

“In a way, business is all about pricing,” says Pawel Komender, founder of PJK Strategy and Marketing Specialists. “Companies need to manage their prices wisely to stay profitable.”

The profit-maximising price for a product can be calculated mathematically. But price management is more than crunching numbers.

“You combine the theory with the practice; it’s not just about what looks nice on paper,” he explains. “You also need to consider qualitative factors, such as the specific environment the company operates in, business strategy and potential regulations.

An acknowledged expert on price management, Komender taught an MBA class on the subject — in Japanese — for four years as a visiting lecturer in Waseda University’s faculty of commerce.

“The seminar covered some basics: why is price important and why is profit important,” he states. “Then, we looked at techniques for how to determine the optimal price; and also that pricing involves payment conditions, managing discounts and price negotiations.”

The services that PJK Strategy and Marketing Specialists offer are not limited to price management. Komender offers support related to other aspects of strategy and marketing, including competitive strategy, positioning, product value strategy and sales organisation.

“Our selling point is methodology,” he says. “We gather data, analyse it, and then derive implications. Recently, I’ve been getting questions about market analysis for potential market entry, including segments, size, growth potential, competition and profitability. For this type of analysis, I can create financial models with all the relevant factors, which render different possible scenarios.”

To stay on top of the latest methods, he continues to study econometrics and statistics. But, to Komender, it’s never a chore — he describes his work as his hobby.

“When someone says they’re finished for the day, they might grab a novel or watch television,” he states. “What I do is I grab a textbook to check something or review something. I keep learning, keep looking out for new methods and applications.”

To date, one of Komender’s most significant accomplishments is having played a central role in an M&A project where one company purchased the business unit of another — a job dependent on a strong understanding of a variety of fields. He conducted financial due diligence, took part in negotiations on the purchase price, negotiated with the Japanese trade union, and, following the merger, was in charge of the accounting and management reporting functions.

“All my knowledge of business administration, plus the experience I have gathered — particularly in Japan — plus leadership and people-management skills, that all came together in this one job,” he says.

Komender learned the value of learning early in his life, in part through his language studies. Born in Warsaw, Polish is his native language, but he has become fluent in English, German and Japanese, and has also studied French.

He started his English studies when he lived in Minnesota in the US for a year during junior high school. But it was Komender’s English teacher at the boarding school he attended in Germany that ensured he mastered the language.

“Our teacher was quite tough,” he says. “But she got us to understand that English was a precondition to doing anything.”

Proficiency in both German and English made it possible for Komender to be accepted to a European business studies programme put on jointly by the University of Paderborn and Trent Polytechnic Nottingham. He took classes in both Germany and England.

More important than being able to do data collection today in different languages is the fact that Komender’s multilingualism has taken him around the world, and he has developed lifelong friendships with people from diverse backgrounds.

“Many of my friendships from the time I was a student continue to this day,” he says. “I’ve been to nearly every one of my high school reunions.”

You can’t put a price on that. 

Do you like natto?


Time spent working in Japan: Over 20 years.

Career regret (if any): None.

Favourite saying: Life is what you make it.

Favourite book: Shakespeare’s Macbeth. I love Shakespeare.

Cannot live without: Faith.

Lesson learned in Japan: To understand the spirit of the samurai.

Secret of success in business: Exceed expectations.

Favourite place to dine: Bernd’s Bar.

Do you like natto?: I’m not passionate about it. I prefer nattomaki.