When Roy Akins opened Southeastern Marketing Advertising & Public Relations in 1984, some local residents thought Akins had made a mistake.
"I always wanted to control my own destiny by owning a business," Akins said. "Some folks thought I was nuts for opening an advertising and public relations agency in Statesboro at the time."
Akins had worked for six years at the Sea Island Bank as director of marketing when he decided to venture out on his own.
"I had gone as far as I could at the bank without lending money in some capacity," he said. "I would have failed miserably as a lender. One good story or one sad one, and I would offered the proposed borrower the keys to the bank. Anyway, if I had chosen to stay in banking, it would have required a move to a larger market and Statesboro was a great place to raise a family."
With experience under his belt including a stint as the editor of the Southern Beacon, an award-winning newspaper that was acquired by the Statesboro Herald in the late 1970', Akins opened his agency and began adding clients locally and from around the state. Akins has built a solid agency that has withstood the test of time and changing technology.
"Technology has revolutionized the ad industry," he said. "In addition to offering expanded advertising platforms via the Internet, technology has enabled us to increase productivity ten-fold while improving turnaround time for our clients. We're probably doing five times the volume of work today with less than half the staff. That's what technology has meant to us."
Akins said as important as technology has become, his business still comes to down to relationships and serving the client. Akins takes great pride in the relationships that his firm has built with its clients over the years. The feeling from many of his clients is a mutual one.
"I met Roy in 1995 when I was with Frontier Communications serving as their marketing manager for the southeastern region," said Rene Godwin, vice president of First National Bank and Trust in Atmore, Alabama. "His agency did a lot of work for me at that time. When I moved to First National, I knew that Roy would be perfect for what we needed to do."
Godwin said that the bank, which serves three different markets in south Alabama, needed to be "re-branded" and its marketing efforts stepped up.
"I called him, and he has been our agency of record ever since," she said. "They always produce wonderful creative, have fabulous ideas, and frankly, he just makes it happen. Roy never says 'no,' and importantly, he is a true gentleman to work with and he has a great team behind him."
Akins credits his zeal for customer service to his mentor Everett Williams whom Akins worked with at the Sea Island Bank.
"I will never forget Mr. Williams telling me, 'take care of your customers and they will take care of you,'" Akins said. "Over time, we have worked hard to be loyal and responsive to our clients' needs. We have been rewarded by keeping their business and receiving referrals from them as well."
Chris Roessler, advertising and marketing director for the Rotary Corporation in Glennville, Ga., the world's largest supplier of outdoor power equipment parts, tools, and accessories, said the advertising created by Akins's firm has had a tremendous, positive effect for his company.
"Southeastern Marketing Services has designed all of our advertising ads, catalog covers, and trade show promotions for the past 15 years," Roessler said. "They have made our corporate identity what it is today."
Roessler said Outdoor Power Equipment Trade Magazine presented his company with three Gold Ad “Q” Awards for outstanding advertising in recognition of the advertisement that achieved the highest readership response as measured against all other ads appearing in the magazine. "They quit giving them out after we won three years in a row," he said.
The work of Akins's firm has created a lasting impression for local businesses such as Splash in the Boro.
"We created the jingle for Splash as well as the service name Splash in the Boro," Akins said. "We also conceived the service name Interstate Centre for the Interstate Centre industrial park on I-16 in Bryan County."
With a staff of five, including his mother who makes regular rounds to the bank and post office as she "grabs" her son a takeout lunch, Akins maintains 18 monthly clients, ranging from banks and manufacturers to retailers and telecom providers. "Over the years, we have served hundreds of clients and worked on a wide range of projects," he said. "I am fortunate and honored to still count the Sea Island Bank among my clients."
While building Statesboro's only full service advertising agency, Akins found time to serve as an original member of the Development Authority of Bulloch County, as second president of the Southern Boosters, and as a member of the Dirty Dozen (a group of local business people who helped resurrect Georgia Southern football).
"I used to love Coach Erk Russell's quote, 'the harder I work, the luckier I get'," Akins said. "In our case, that's held true. But in reality, we have been truly blessed by the good Lord. He deserves all the credit."
Akins met his wife Kay Kay when they were attending Georgia Southern. They have been married for 31 years and have two sons.