I want to point out that J & J was the sponsor of the TV show featuring Porter and this is one indication of the company's commitment to the disability community.


Bill Porter: Selling his uplifting attitude
By Bethany Broadwell
iCan News Service, staff writer
August 9, 2002
Shelly Brady, author of "Ten Things I learned from Bill Porter," wrote the book about her employer and friend with cerebral palsy because she gets pleasure out of sharing his story. Brady and Porter occasionally give motivational presentations together, but when speaking and traveling began interfering with his selling routine, Porter left the speaking business to his assistant. Brady took the time to talk to iCan! about the salesman, perhaps best described as "unstoppable."
Name: Bill Porter
Birth date and age: Porter is 69. He was born Sept. 9, 1932.
Hometown: Porter lives in Portland, Ore. He was born in San Francisco, Calif.
Family: Porter is single. His father, Ernest, and his mother, Irene, have both died. Porter's parents were determined to help their son succeed. They took jobs and volunteer positions to learn all that they could about how he could most easily manage life with a disability. Today, Porter's assistant, Shelly Brady, and her family are instrumental in Porter's life.
Disability: Porter has cerebral palsy. The disability affects his speech, causes him muscle spasms and impacts his capacity to walk.
Employment: Porter sells Watkins products, household, personal care and gourmet food items. He originally sold them door-to-door, but an injury from being hit by a car in 1997 made long-distance walking too painful for Porter. Today, he sells soaps, spices and Watkins' variety of offerings through the telephone and the Internet. He has about 800 regular customers in his Portland area and thousands of customers across the country.
Hobbies: Porter enjoys watching Matlock reruns and he has a huge love for sports. The Seattle Mariners baseball team is his favorite.
Favorite quote: A message that Porter tries to convey when he speaks to groups is "Don√ɬ*t think about your problems or your handicap; don√ɬ*t dwell on those. Think about what you do have."
Greatest accomplishment in life: Even though he was deemed unemployable, Porter became the No. 1 Watkins salesman in the Pacific Northwest. He also is proud that he sold to people who told him no and to never return.
Role models: Porter was truly impressed with a little boy he heard about who sold a small item, like a world peace sticker, to the president. Hundreds of people have written to Porter because of his inspirational power. He considers these correspondents his new friends and in a way, Brady said, they are his role models.

Still selling

Bill Porter will turn 70 this fall, but he has no plans to retire. True, the movie "Door to Door" has been produced, highlighting his record sales of Watkins products, and a book has been written about his life. Numerous print articles have appeared in newspapers and magazines, too, and he has been featured on television. With this much attention focused on him, Porter could easily end his career selling Watkins products and finish feeling exceedingly accomplished. Earning that success, however, was enough of a challenge that quitting his sales job simply seems wrong. Bill Porter has spent all of his life proving that whatever his circumstances, he is not a quitter. Even now, Brady said of Porter, "He is happy to get up and make some sales every day."

Working for Watkins
When he was selling door-to-door full time, Porter put in eight- to 12-hour days interacting with customers and studying their habits. In 1997, he was hit by a car, and the pain that resulted from the accident made beating the pavement too strenuous. For a short time, Porter seemed hopelessly lost to Brady. She said, "I never heard the words 'I can't' come out of his mouth." Unable to walk as much, Porter needed to find a solution. He decided to try selling via the telephone. "He was able to cover his territory faster," Brady explained. "So he ended up selling too much. I had to tell him to slow down. ... I didn√ɬ*t have enough room in my car."
When Porter was first looking for a job out of high school, the openings for him were virtually nonexistent. Even agencies whose mission was to help people find work, deemed Porter unemployable. A Watkins representative eventually gave him a chance to sell in a dismal Oregon territory, but the expectation of success was not high. Porter's father had been a salesman, so he saw that example as he grew, but the reality was Porter has a challenging time communicating with his cerebral palsy. He, himself, did not realize how much his speech lacked clarity until he heard himself on tape. Nevertheless, with Brady's administrative assistance, Porter is selling to third and fourth generations of families. She said, "He snuck into people's hearts."

Finding a dedicated heart
Brady has been helping Porter deliver his Watkins products, type paperwork and complete certain household tasks, like grocery shopping, for years. The two have known each other since 1985, when Brady answered an ad posted at her high school for a delivery person who could supply the necessary vehicle. According to Brady, she has learned some tremendous lessons about perseverance and determination from her friend, but she added that Porter has also learned from her. She teased that he has learned patience because he needed patience to work with her. Brady has taught Porter about being flexible, too, because his needs have had to merge with Brady's family, which includes six children.

Uplifting others
While it is clear that Porter has touched the Brady family, his ability to encourage people around the country is equally apparent. Following a 1997 Christmas Eve broadcast of Porter's story on ABC's 20/20, letters poured into the station. Hillary Roberts, of Keyport, N.J., was someone who wrote and took action in her own life after being uplifted by the salesman. "He taught us that when you open your heart to giving, angels fly to your door," Roberts said. She started a nonprofit company, Project Linus NJ, Inc., which puts handmade blankets in the hands of premature and seriously ill children. Her organization is on the verge of celebrating its three-year anniversary and Roberts said, "We still refer to Bill Porter moments when we face our own challenges as a small but dedicated nonprofit agency."
That kind of result is most fulfilling to Porter, plus professionally he keeps on breaking sales records. A dream of his might be to build a home with a mother-in-law apartment so he can be closer to the Bradys. Above all else, he hopes that people who hear about him can take in his experience and make a difference in their own lives. According to Brady, Porter believes, "We can change this world one door at a time."
"Ten Things I learned from Bill Porter" by Shelly Brady is published by New World Library.