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About Innovatemap — 03.23.2021

Innovatemap Values Deep Dive: Partnership with Sara Napierkowski

Sara Croft, Principal, Growth Marketing

As we continue our Innovatemap Values Deep Dive series, where we detail each of our core values alongside colleagues who live and breathe them each day, we take a look at Partnership. This one seems simple enough, but it’s actually quite complexly ingrained into everything we do at Innovatemap, both internally and externally. We define partnership as: We believe in collaboration as a force for understanding, progress, and innovation, so we fully adopt your ambitions.

While all of Innovatemap’s team is committed to partnership, there is no one better to share about what partnership means than Sara Napierkowski, Senior Operations Manager at Innovatemap. In her role, Sara is often the first person prospective clients meet. As an individual, she uniquely represents what a partnership with Innovatemap would look like.

There are plenty of agencies that say they’re looking for a partnership with clients, but not so many that make good on that statement. Sara is not motivated to simply close a deal with any company she meets; she’s looking for a good fit. Because our services are custom-based on client needs and goals, understanding those needs and goals is critical to success.

Sara is naturally-gifted at putting others first, listening and asking the right questions. Despite being in a sales-driven role, she’s never pushy, demanding or one to over-sell. She sets both clients and Innovatemap up for successful partnerships because she is an incredible partner to anyone she encounters. That includes her colleagues. Sara is quick to step in and take tasks off someone’s plate, even when they don’t fall under her job description. It’s not unusual to see her brainstorming ideas for clients, preparing webinar slides or doing anything that will bring relief to someone else.

Companies around the world are still working to adapt to remote work. Sara knows it’s important for our team to not just be connected but feel connected right now. In order to deepen relationships within the internal team, she’s developed and hosted Shop Week and Science Fair events. During these afternoons, we take a break from client work and simply spend time together. There isn’t formality to the events; we chat about both work projects and family life. Spending this intentional time just being together allows us to strengthen our partnerships with one another. And we’re in a business where teamwork is essential, so being proactive about nurturing our own relationships helps our client partnerships, too.

How do you work to immediately build a sense of partnership with clients?

Listening is an incredibly important piece. Asking questions and trying to understand who the person is and what they care about is what I like to do. Our mission is to help leaders we believe in accomplish the vision they believe in. I open up waves of communication to drill down into exactly what that vision is so I can recognize early on if and how we can help.

Setting expectations is also important. The partnership component takes form as trust is built. Delivering on expectations is key to building trust, so early on, we set clear and honest expectations to ensure we’re able to deliver. We orient ourselves around what’s best for the client, so we don’t tell them what they want to hear; we share our recommendations on what is best.

What advice do you have for building more successful partnerships?

Something we say is, “be good to the town.” Pay it forward without expecting anything back. An example of this is when we had a prospect come to us and ultimately decide to work with another agency. We were disappointed because we knew we could produce results for this particular company. Rather than burn a bridge, we continued to support them – sending them follow up information we thought was relevant and staying in touch. About a month later they came back to us and wanted to begin working together.

Why is making a concerted effort to put others first and bolster partnerships important to you personally?

Relationships have always been important to me. Acts of service are my love language, and I truly enjoy making people’s lives easier. I think it’s even intensified in the last year as I’ve had to work harder to maintain and grow relationships with my many friends and family outside of Indiana. Relationships fill my cup! It’s always worth the effort.

Professionally, I am hyper-aware that people’s jobs and lives depend on the decisions I make, the clients I pursue. So to best represent myself and the team, I need to bolster partnerships that will work. Then, our teams can create some magic!

What motivates you to help others within Innovatemap?

I have empathy for my colleagues because I have been in their role before. I was one of the first ten employees at Innovatemap, and I’ve worn many hats here. That gives me a unique perspective on everyone’s positions and pain points. If someone needs something small or last-minute, I’m happy to help them succeed because it helps us all succeed.

Innovatemap is always looking to grow partnerships with future employees. Please visit our careers page to see if any open roles seem like a fit, and if not, consider joining the watch list to hear about future positions. We’d love to grow a partnership with you!

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