Air Products reached $1 billion in sales and listing in the Fortune 500 in 1978. The strategy of deferring short-term profits for long- term growth had been successful. So, too, had been the continued emphasis upon high-quality engineering, on innovative technology and financing, on a "hungry" style of entrepreneurship, and on skillful marketing to industrial and government customers. Where the corporation moved away from its core business, it had sometimes been successful (chemicals) but more often had encountered serious problems (retail sales, material sciences, medical supplies). In the industrial gases field it had become a major player in the United States and abroad; in a number of specialty gases Air Products was the dominant firm in growing markets. In chemicals the company had experienced outstanding success in certain areas. The challenge to Ed Donley and his management team in the early eighties was to build on these achievements without locking the firm into markets that were experiencing slower growth.
Growth was an integral part of the company culture. In the beginning it had been a sheer necessity for Leonard Pool to postpone dividends in favor of investing for the future. That necessity soon became a virtue. When the company went public, Air Products was marketed as a growth stock, offering capital gains rather than im