I have a few heroes, and Bill Porter, the Watkins door-to-door salesman phenomenon, is one of them. Bill was born with cerebral palsy in 1932. "He wasn't allowed to dwell on his disability, which left his right side twisted and his speech slurred. His mother, Irene, 'was always very positive,' says Porter, 'and she insisted that I be the same way." [People Magazine article, "Life of a Salesman", 2002] His mother enrolled him in public high school, and after Bill Porter graduated, his father insisted that Bill get a job. No small task! He was rejected daily for 4 months. His employment agency told him to quit looking for work, suggesting he go on welfare.
Well, Bill Porter finally applied for a job with Watkins, the nation's oldest door-to-door sales company. They gave Bill the worst territory, and he worked only on commission.
His mother would write out the word "PERSISTENCE" on a slip of paper and put it in his lunch bag. His daily job involved waking up at 4:45 a.m., spending 90 minutes dressing, catching the 7:30 bus, and getting to his sales territory by 9:00. He often wouldn't return home until after 7 p.m. His physical challenges made every step painful. One year later he was winning sales awards and became a door-to-door phenomenon! Bill eventually became the top selling salesman in the United States. Words that people use to describe Bill Porter: enthusiastic, relentless, irresistible, indomitable. If someone slammed a door in his face he would repeat a mantra silently, "The next customer will say yes."
Bill Porter's life story became famous a few years ago after 20/20 ran a television piece about him, called "A Moving Journey". In fact, it received the largest viewer response of any show in the history of 20/20. Articles were written about him in "Reader's Digest" and "People Magazine"
William A. Macy stars in an award-winning movie about the life of Bill Porter, called "Door to Door". Macy cowrote the script, and the movie also stars Helen Mirren and Kira Sedgwick. My husband and I just bought it from Amazon. It was a beautiful, inspiring movie that everyone should watch, especially with their children. Bill porter is the personification of persistence.
By the way, I will be one of Bill Porter's Christmas customers this year! I'm buying Christmas presents from him online. Bill Porter still works for Watkins Click here to go to his online catalog. If you click here it will go to Bill's Page (his sales number is 066761N).
The video of the 20/20 broadcast can be viewed online at the speaker's bureau that schedules Bill's appearances. If you have Real Player software, you can watch the online video.