“Dan Mack? Let’s just say he cuts an imposing figure in the mass retail industry.”

That comment, from one of Mack’s many admirers, sums up his status in the mass retail industry. Not only is Mack an imposing figure — he stands a solid 6 feet 2 inches — but his passion and facilitating demeanor has made him one of the industry’s leading figures and a voice of reason in a world of chaos that is retail in the latter part of the second decade of this century.

His firm, Chicago-based Mack Elevation, a boutique sales consulting, executive coaching and training agency, turns 10 years old later this year and, for those who have been to one of his forums, it is easy to say that these events make a difference. “I stir the drink,” Mack said. “My job is to be a catalyst, helping my partners in the room to feel comfortable and trust each other so we can open a legitimate dialogue that will help elevate the thinking in our industry.”

The key, he said, is helping people get honest with each other, even feeling a little vulnerability, so they will open up and share the truth of their business and leadership struggles. “I often ask myself, how do I get to the soul of the people in the room,” he said. “What atmosphere do I need to create to help them to open up to each other? How do I create enough value during one of my events that, if I was a vice president of sales at some company, I would want to be there and would want to come back again next time?”

Experience certainly taught the 55-year-old Mack a few lessons. He said that he learned many things from his time with larger CPG and emerging firms. He held leadership roles at key companies over the years, spending about 15 years with GlaxoSmithKline, seven years with GOJO Industries — inventor of Purell — and as vice president of sales at Dentek Oral Care before starting Mack Elevation in June 2008.

“At that point, I felt a burden to create a consulting and coaching practice, where leaders could share ideas and learn from each other in a trusting environment. Leadership is a very lonely place,” he said. “I felt it would be cool to create a place where there was trust between the attendees, and they had a moderator who understood the industry and could help them create high-performing and healthy organizations.”

Mack said that he felt his company plays a key role in elevating relationships between retailers and suppliers. “I don’t think there are a lot of strategic relationships out there that are truly win-win,” he said. “I think my group creates strategic discussions that allow all members of our industry to develop the trust and understanding that is vital for the health of our industry.”

Industry officials see what Mack brings to the industry. “Dan has a keen sense of listening to the needs and concerns of all industry stakeholders, and puts forward meaningful solutions and insights to solve the industry’s most pressing problems,” said Wayne Bennett, senior vice president of retail at Cleveland-based ECRM. “The Elevation Forum is a valuable industry share group that provides a much-needed forum.”

The future is more of the same, Mack hopes. He has no intention of making his company larger, preferring the hands-on approach a smaller company allows. “Larger is not better, but I have a big interest in being special. In the end, I want to be small, unique and different, but also inspiring to the many people I work with. My vision is to help leaders birth healthy, purpose-driven and high-performing organizations.”