By Sarah Robinson/NEMS Daily Journal
TUPELO – Tom Robinson planned to join his father in the newspaper business when he graduated from the University of Georgia in 1965. Instead, he embarked on a career that would lead him half-way around the world to eventually land in Tupelo, where his own son would later join him in a new family business – advertising.
After serving as the information officer for an air force base in the Philippines during the Vietnam War, Robinson moved to Jackson to join a large public relations firm. In 1972, he moved to Tupelo and in 1984, opened his own advertising agency.
Robinson and Associates is now one of the most successful full-service advertising firms in the area.
In 1992, his son Ty joined the crew, making Robinson & Associates a true family business. But Tom said Ty did not receive special treatment from the other associates.
“Ty started out at a trainee level on a trainee salary,” said Tom. “He has earned his way into everything he’s had.”
The father-and-son team realized early on that arguing was counterproductive in a professional relationship.
“I’m not a ‘yes man’ at all but it’s nice that we have the opportunity to sit down and close the door and think through everything,” Ty said.
Tom agreed and said, “We bounce things off each other.”
The two differ in terms of strengths and weaknesses but choose to use those difference to benefit the business.
“We complement each other. That’s the key to the relationship,” Tom said. Ty said his brother, a physical therapist in Seattle, is more like his father.
“My brother and my father have never met a stranger. That’s something I aspire to,” said Ty who describes himself as less of an extrovert. Tom said of his son, “Ty is more mentally tough than I am.”
Though different in style and approach, both men are even-tempered and client-focused.
“I figured out a long time ago that I don’t work for my dad, I work for my clients,” said Ty.
And Tom wouldn’t have it any other way. “I want you to watch out for your client equally as hard as you work for the agency,” he said.
Tom said he doesn’t feel pressured to stay on as the manager of the firm forever. And in terms of succession, having Ty on board will certainly make the transition easier when the time comes for him to step back. “This is a younger person’s game,” Tom said.
And although he still misses slinging the carriage on the old typewriter at his father’s newspaper, Tom led the firm through a major technical upgrade recently and has no plans to get out of the business anytime soon. Tom has long been a business and civic leader in Tupelo and is proud of what Ty has done himself in the community.
“You’ve got to be part of the civic community. That’s one of the reasons I decided to stay here (in Tupelo),” Tom said.
“The opportunities I have had here, I’m not sure I could have had anywhere else,” Ty acknowledged. He said because he can never repay all those who have extended a kindness to him in his life, he tries to pay it forward.
Both men are members of several civic organizations and are active in their church. Tom has served on the board of the CDF and the Elvis Presley Birthplace. Ty is an active leader in the Boy Scouts and the chairman of the Tupelo Airport Authority.
Both men say it is the team of associates they work with and the clients they serve that make them successful. The number of clients that have stayed with the firm for decades, not just years, it is evidence of that success. Tom said, “If you put your clients and associates first, it will put you first, too.”