Survival and Strategies
In 1945, Leonard Pool declined to sell Air Products to the Great Lakes Carbon Company. A year later, he received another offer, this time for $2 million in cash. Still he refused to sell. Pool was determined to make his company a success, even though the cancellation of military orders meant virtually starting over. Once again he faced the entrepreneurial challenges of finding capital and a market for the company's products. The basic difficulty was that Pool sought to compete in an established industry, replete with its market leaders and many minor players. Lacking either a radical technological innovation (like the Xerox machine or the Polaroid camera) or a plentiful supply of capital, Pool and his colleagues put their faith in their drive, determination, and ingenuity.
As reconversion to a peacetime economy began, Pool could call on resources he had not had in 1940: a reputation for the ability to deliver what was promised, a tradition of joining creative ingenuity to excellent engineering, a knowledge of generator design, and experience in managing a manufacturing operation. These assets would be important during the troubled years of the late 1940s, as Pool tried first one strategy and then another to make Air Products a profitable company. The year after V-J Day was one of particularly acute uncertainties, and of major decisions. Would the company survive? Where would it relocate? Could it lease or sell generators in the civilian market?
Air Products tried a variety of approaches in the immediate postwar years. The firm looked for more military contracts, sold oxygen gen-