Larry Strobel didnt think Strobel Machine Inc., a machine shop his father, George, founded in Worthington, Armstrong County, in 1946, would make it to the year 2000.
On a couple of occasions, Strobel had reason to believe the company wouldnt make it through the next payroll period. At one point, he had to lay off his own son, and advised him not to expect to come into the family business because it probably wouldnt survive.
Today, Strobel Machine is looking at a much brighter future, now as a leader instead of a faltering follower.
The reversal of Strobel Machines fortunes began in 1997, when Larry Strobel asked Robert Chastain, a lawyer and consultant who has worked in turnaround efforts for family businesses, if he thought he could help the ailing company. After a review, Chastain agreed to take on the project and virtually took over the strategic management of Strobel Machine.
When Chastain arrived, Strobel Machine had just $600 in the bank and was facing a $2,800 loan payment on new equipment. Larry Strobel, who acknowledges his business savvy wasnt nearly as strong as his mechanical engineering skills, had come up short as a manager. With strict financial management measures, personnel changes and renegotiation with a key creditor, Chastain helped Strobel Machine get back on its feet within a year.
Now, Strobel Machine has spun off a new business, a computer company to handle fiber optics, computer networking, Y2K problems, Web site design and electronic commerce. Its working on building a network of small machine shops that will participate in a parallel manufacturing effort, bringing together a dozen or more shops to make replacement parts for the coal mining industry, with orders distributed based on factors including capacity available at each site and machining specialty.
Strobel Machines recovery has earned it recognition by the state as an Advanced Technology Company, qualifying it for a $300,000 low interest equipment loan from the Manufacturing Equipment Loan Fund. The company also won the 1998 Staples/Hammermill Small Business of the Year Award, a national competition sponsored by five large companies to recognize the efforts of small businesses.
But the most important reward for Larry Strobel may be the knowledge that his company can survive into its third generation. His son is due to be discharged from the Navy this month, and Larry has invited him to come back to work in the family business.