The average worker today stays on the job 4.4 years, according to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics. A Pratt man begins his 65th year in the same job today.
How many people stay in the same job that long, W.E. Stewart wonders.
Born and raised on a Kiowa County farm, he farmed for 10 years and worked for the grain co-op office for four years, during the 1940s. He saw an ad for a Fuller Brush salesman in a newspaper and his career was born.
Stewart is also a stayer when it comes to residence. He moved once during his time in Kiowa County. He would still be there, except for a tornado that destroyed his home and blew his warehouse away. He lived three and a half weeks in shelters, first at the Haviland school, then in Mullinville. His next move was a motel in Kingman, while he waited for an apartment to become available in Pratt.
He has been a distributor for Fuller Brush Company for 64 years and for Watkins Products for 33 years. It’s a good fit for him.
“I’m more or less my own boss,” he said. “I’ve been a good enough manger I could get ahead.”
The products have changed, but the selling procedure has not.
He makes calls, and people call him. Products are shipped to his home and he delivers them to the customer.
“They like the products and they like to see me come around,” he said.
Approaching his 89th birthday, he no longer works full time, especially during bad weather. The snow and extremely cold temperatures a few weeks ago kept him home, but once spring comes on, he’ll probably be back to 40 hours a week.
Stewart has no plans for retirement.
“I’ll continue as long as I’m able,” he said. “It’s good exercise and good for my brain.”
Direct sales is a growing industry, generating more than $3 billion in revenue in 2012, nearly 6 percent more than the previous year, according to the Direct Selling Association. In 2012, there were almost 16 million direct sellers, an increase from 2011.
Approximately 90 percent operate the business part time, most under 10 hours per week, according to Forbes.com. While the median income for direct sellers was $2400 per year, Forbes noted that many people enter the field to get personal discounts on products they want. Those who treat it as a 40-hour per week job can make a comfortable living, however.