Dax Strohmeyer is the CEO of Triangle Manufacturing in North Jersey. In a previous life, he was a standout linebacker at Rutgers University before signing with the New York Jets as an undrafted free agent. The Jets sent Dax to play for the Berlin Thunder of NFL Europe, where he was on the team that won the 2001 World Bowl before returning to the States and eventually getting picked up by the Philadelphia Eagles.
He spent a year on the team’s practice squad before signing with the Calgary Stampeders of the Canadian Football League. Unfortunately, a ruptured Achilles tendon ended his playing days before he was truly ready to walk away.
It must have been devastating to suffer a career-ending injury. What were your emotions at the time?
There was a lot of frustration, but the writing was on the wall. I was 27 at the time — that’s pretty old in football years. The injury convinced me that it was time to look at Triangle as a legitimate long-term career option. I didn’t know it at the time, but getting hurt was a blessing in disguise. My football career was ending, but my time at Triangle was about to begin.
Rutgers football struggled on the field during your time there. What did you learn from that experience?
Our team faced adversity week after week, competing in a formidable Big East Conference against the likes of Miami and Virginia Tech, which played in the national championship game my senior year. We had to find the inner strength to motivate ourselves to show up every weekend, believing that on any given Saturday we could pull off an upset. It happened during my senior year. We were big underdogs against Syracuse but managed to beat them in overtime for our only win of the season. It’s a game I’ll never forget.
You played for more than 25 current and future NFL coaches, including legends Bill Parcells and Andy Reid. What did they teach you about leadership?
The biggest thing I learned from watching them in action is the importance of being authentic. I’m a third-generation leader of our family’s business and I could have tried to emulate my father’s or grandfather’s personality. Instead, I found my own voice and leadership style.
I’ve stayed true to myself and have learned that’s the only way to build credibility, whether it was with my teammates on the football field or with the team here at Triangle.
How did your football career prepare you for the next phase of your life?
The sport taught me so many life lessons beyond perseverance, such as the importance of teamwork and problem-solving in the face of adversity. I’ve carried those skills into my professional life and frequently incorporate football references into my conversations at work.
Analytics are incredibly intricate and integral to achieving success on the football field. I’ve found that I can draw parallels between football metrics and the KPIs we track at Triangle. It’s a crucial aspect of understanding the company’s performance and gauging how we’re faring on our collective scoreboard.
You worked on the shop floor when you first joined Triangle. Why was that important to do?
Well, I needed more money (laughing). I approached my father about increasing my pay and he told me that I had a unique privilege as the boss’s son: I could work as much as I wanted. I spent my days as a buyer and worked the second shift on the shop floor until 10 o’clock every night.
At the time, I wasn’t fully aware of what my dad was trying to accomplish. He wanted to teach me the importance of earning the respect of the shop floor workers and experiencing our business from the ground up. Looking back, I’m extremely grateful for the opportunity. It allowed me to gain a deep understanding of the nuances of our business and an appreciation for how hard our machine operators work. Those lessons have stayed with me to this day, and I’ll always value the perspective they give me.
Even so, you didn’t need to work two jobs. Is that work ethic left over from your gridiron days?
Hard work definitely leads to success on the football field, but it’s always been part of my makeup. I was recently discussing differences in the internal drives of individuals with one of our shop floor operators who said he couldn’t not be busy. That made me realize that I have the same mentality. I need to keep my plate full, especially when it comes to working on things I love. If I’m passionate about it, I can go all day.
Written by Dan Cook, BONEZONE Magazine/ORTHOWORLD Inc., Nov 21, 2023