COMING OF AGE
As the war ended, Leonard Pool, his family, and his colleagues at Air Products had every reason to think hard and long about the future. The war had provided an unexpected opportunity, with its demand for small, mobile generators. However, with the return of peace, government contracts--the company's central business--were being cancelled. In the private sector, the company was a minor, little- known organization which faced the prospect of intense competition from Linde, Air Reduction, and National Cylinder Gas, the major producers and distributors of industrial gases at that time. Air Products had been unable to establish a solid footing in the leasing business, the niche Pool hoped to fill. Capital, as always, was in short supply. The challenges were daunting and the risks great.
During the years from 1945 to 1957, Air Products would struggle to survive and to develop a business strategy. By 1957, these efforts were successful and the firm was on solid footing (Table 3). Air Products, by that time, would be established in the leasing and the tonnage gas businesses. It would have a large and growing trade with the federal government. In addition, the company entered the traditional cylinder gas business and began to produce and distribute new gases such as argon, helium, and hydrogen. Finally, Air Products strengthened its reputation in process engineering. The search for a strategy proved successful. Pool's venture had come of age. If still far from being the equal of industry leaders, like Linde, on their own ground, Air Products was a going concern. For some years following the war, however, the outcome was in serious doubt.