Peter Mack | Crain's Denver

In this ongoing series, we ask executives, entrepreneurs and business leaders about mistakes that have shaped their business philosophy.

Peter Mack


Collective Retreats is a Denver-based hospitality startup that builds pop-up luxury retreats in exotic areas where there are no traditional hotels. The company typically leases land where lack of infrastructure or prohibitive zoning laws deter hotels from building, like the side of a mountain or the edge of a farm. Its portfolio currently includes four retreats.

Collective Retreats launched in early 2017 with $2.5 million in seed funding from First Round Capital. The company then closed a $10 million funding round in December.

Before founding Collective Retreats, Mack worked as the vice president of product innovation at Tough Mudder and for 10 years at Starwood Hotels & Resorts. 

The Mistake:

I didn’t ask for help.

Earlier in my career, I was often overconfident. I would put my head down and think I could solve all my problems alone. There was this one project at Starwood – a huge project – and I spent a lot of time designing what I thought was right. When we launched, the project had some big misses. Had I involved other people, we could have avoided that.

This was still the way I operated when I was starting Collective Retreats, and we had some challenges. I was stubborn, and I was keeping it all to myself and biting my lip. Less than a month before that first location outside Vail was set to open, we didn’t have all the appropriate facilities built. We didn’t have all the right programs in place. We were definitely way behind schedule.

Two weeks prior to our opening date, I called up my father. He asked me questions, and I avoided answering them because I was frustrated and upset with myself. When I finally opened up and started telling him about these challenges, he basically booked a flight right then. He came out and stood by my side for two weeks. Since then, he’s been a really great advisor on business issues and really stuck with me.

That’s not the only example. I opened up about these problems with other friends, family and colleagues, and all of a sudden they started offering to help too. Our head of design, Cassie Novick, was a friend of mine before I started this company. Before I shared my vision with her, I didn’t think there’d be a possibility of us working together. When I did finally share it with her, she volunteered. Now, at each of our locations we source all of the design materials – the décor, the blankets, the furniture – from local providers. That was her idea, and it’s now a big part of what Collective Retreats is.

I didn’t just tell them what my vision was, I really listened to them and accepted their help.

Not only were we able to get that first location open on time, but it ended up getting done significantly better than if I had continued to plug away on my own. Some of our first guests were families that hadn’t seen each other in a long time, so hitting our opening date and doing it really well was really important. The success of those early trips – those customers sharing their experiences through word-of-mouth and social media – fueled our early growth.

Whatever challenges you are facing, no matter how difficult, you’ve got to share them with the people around you.

The Lesson:

Everything I do now is with the help, consultation, camaraderie and guidance of others. You get feedback from people you trust and who trust you, and it makes your ideas better. I wish I learned this 20 years ago.

It also helps with accountability. If you tell people you trust what you’re trying to achieve, they can help keep you on track. Sometimes it’s painful, but it’s always good for the project.

The team we have at Collective Retreats now is very much the result of this process. It came together through friendships and relationships and accountability. I’d say about 80 percent of our staff has come to the company through personal relationships. Either I or someone else has shared their experience, talked about their challenges and what they’re looking to achieve, and their passion has invigorated other people to join.

Peter Mack is on Twitter at @PeterMack.

Photo courtesy of Collective Retreats.

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