Upgrade Pack works with global airline and hotel partners to match their available upgrades with users who want to purchase an upgrade.
The process is simple, the upgrade is discounted, and Upgrade Pack works with companies who give membership to their most valued customers and employees. So, your bank or credit card issuer might offer Upgrade Pack as a loyalty benefit or reward on your bank account or card.
In founder Craig Unsworth’s words, the company is “helping airlines and hotels fix capacity issues, or our corporate clients fix out-of-date or underwhelming loyalty and rewards programs”
Let’s spend a day in Unsworth’s life…
Please describe your job: What do you do?
Craig Unsworth: I’m Group CEO at Upgrade Pack, which is your typical CEO role made that bit more interesting (read: manic) by being a Founder too. I lead the Board and our Leadership Team, which is our strategy ‘nucleus’ as we design, build, market, sell, and operate our first-to-market platform
I’ve incredibly talented colleagues who lead each area – Product, Technology, Marketing, Commercial, Partners, and Operations – so, much of my time can be spent thinking about what’s next. I lead on many of our key and core external relationships – including the major banking clients that backed us in the beginning, the global partners that took a chance on our concept, and the private shareholders who helped fund the vision. The concept for Upgrade Pack lived in my head for the best part of a decade before we started bringing it to life so there’s a good dose of “alignment” in my day-to-day too.
Whereabouts do you sit within the organisation? Who do you report to?
Craig Unsworth: I’m a founder of a scale-up, which means I sit at the very top and the very bottom of the organisation! I lead the company as Group CEO, but I’m also the first to get my sleeves rolled up and build that new piece of furniture, empty the dishwasher, or make sure the whiteboards in the meeting rooms are perfectly clean.
Seriously though, that is reflective of the culture we’ve built at Upgrade Pack. We’re a flat team, with hugely talented experts in our 26-strong team. My natural place is often standing up and leading the whole team forward – but I love nothing more than participating in a workshop led by a junior designer and learning something new too.
What kind of skills do you need to be effective in your role?
Craig Unsworth: Multi-tasking, the ability to pivot, rapid and confident decision making, understanding what people want, and having the tenacity to turn a “no” in to a “yes” every time. That was basically my report card at school, although I’m not sure the teachers enjoyed it much sometimes. I’d love to add a few more attributes in there – namely patience, a bit more empathy, and the ability to properly switch off for longer than a few hours – but it’s just not how I’m wired.
Tell us about a typical working day…
Craig Unsworth: I like to get in early, around 0730. I tend to allow myself the luxury of an hour’s peace and quiet (admin, emails, planning, etc) before I start ‘the rounds’, where I sit with people in 1-2-1s as well as groups. I tend to spend the morning ‘starting’ things – new ideas, brainstorms, workshops, new projects, etc – and the afternoon on decisions, plan-setting, and finalising.
We’re based in Richmond in South West London and we find that most of our clients and partners want to come and see us (and the river, the park, the deer, the shops, the restaurants…) so I’m only in Central London once or twice a week usually.
What do you love about your job? What sucks?
Craig Unsworth: I’ve spent my whole career helping people fix things. Now – whilst you could say we’re helping airlines and hotels fix capacity issues, or our corporate clients fix out-of-date or underwhelming loyalty and rewards programs – most of my time is spent building something new. That’s the best bit about what I do. Every day is spent adding value to a great core idea.
Nothing sucks really, but I am trying to reduce my business travel to spend more time with family and friends – I’ve done an average of 100 flights every year for more than a decade and even at the pointy end of the plane (a perk of the job!) it does take its toll eventually.
What kind of goals do you have? What are the most useful metrics and KPIs for measuring success?
Craig Unsworth: We’ve a number of goals at Upgrade Pack. From the type of team we build (diversity is key – and I’m extremely proud that 54% of our team are female, which is still pretty unheard of in fintechs) to the type of company we want to be. We measure all the conventional metrics (revenue, profitability, valuation, productivity etc) but we also focus heavily on the less-usual; like employee work life balance, user satisfaction, speed, pivotability, the quality of decisions we make, etc.
What are your favourite tools to help you to get the job done?
Craig Unsworth: Everything Atlassian, Office 365, and Slack – that’s the software that our business uses to drive momentum and communicate well. I personally add in Evernote because, unlike elephants, if I don’t write it down I forget. And our hardware setup is a dream – because we chose all-Apple, all-mobile, and all-cloud. I can (and often do) work from anywhere in the world at any time of the day, seamlessly.
How did you end up at Upgrade Pack, and where might you go from here?
Craig Unsworth: I’m the original founder. After building to four capital events for other CEOs, it was time to do it myself.
Which travel brands have impressed you lately?
Craig Unsworth: This is an almost impossible question – partly because I travel so much, partly because there’s so much scope for improvement in the sector, and partly because I can’t just name and praise our airline and hotel partners. So I’ll take this from a different perspective. There have been a few travel experiences that have made my life easier in the past month alone: Heathrow’s domestic arrivals setup has become so polished, I regularly get from airplane seat to my car seat in the car park in less than 10 minutes; the new digital bag tags (‘TAG’) from British Airways make tracking otherwise-lost bags a dream; my Rimowa suitcases are still going strong after 10 years, including being literally the only bag not crushed by a ‘mishap’ on a Middle East flight recently; and my Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones and Bose Sleepbuds changed the way I travel and then acclimatise to timezones.
What advice would you give a marketer starting out in the travel industry?
Craig Unsworth: Get involved with the #avgeek community. There’s a whole sub-culture, ecosystem, language, and at-times-obsessive way to travel ‘right’. Build, then maintain, status. Travel can be extremely unglamorous – when the proverbial hits the fan, you’ll want to know you’re going to be (one of, at least) the most important person on that plane / in that hotel. And, finally, travel properly. We do what we do at Upgrade Pack to help as many people travel as well as they can – because 95% of people say the one thing they want most when they travel is an upgrade.