Insights & News

​Why Do We Call Ourselves Flat World?

Posted On April 12, 2017

Right off the bat, we should set the record straight—we don’t believe the world is actually flat. That should go without saying, but recently a few professional basketball players have given public statements saying that you could realize Christopher Columbus’ worst fear and sail right off the edge of the world. Setting aside the weirdness of anyone asking a professional basketball player their views on whether the earth is round (apparently, sports reporters have gotten really desperate for stuff to put on Twitter), the athletes who made these statements—retired basketball legend Shaquille O’Neal and three active NBA players—should know better. O’Neal even has a PhD in education, but that didn’t stop him from saying, “You mean to tell me that China is under us? China is under us? It’s not. The world is flat.”

(This might be why people say PhD stands for “Piled Higher and Deeper.”)

At Flat World Holdings, we don’t believe the earth is flat—and many of our customers have crucial relationships with Chinese suppliers, so we know exactly where China is. Our name comes from a book published in 2005 by Thomas Friedman, titled The World is Flat: A Brief History of the Twenty-First Century. Friedman’s argument is that technology, trade, and the growth of new markets in the developing world have leveled the playing field and made business more competitive than it was for most of the twentieth century.

At the time The World is Flat was published, Flat World Holdings founders Kirk Ferrell and Jeff Rothermich had worked in transportation, logistics, and supply chain management for their entire careers, and they witnessed the reality Friedman described in his book. Contrary to how it’s sometimes portrayed in the press, the “Flat World” Friedman describes isn’t a simple story of American companies using cheap, foreign labor.

That, as GE CEO Jeffrey Immelt has stated, is the story of 1980s supply chains. Today’s supply chains are complex and involve goods that often crisscross borders several times before they are fully manufactured. And while those supply chains are complex and have disrupted companies that haven’t adapted, they allow new, innovative companies to rapidly gain market share. Torque Fitness, a manufacturer of high-quality fitness equipment founded the same year Friedman’s book was published, is a great example of a company that took advantage of a flatter world to quickly become a dominant player in a competitive industry.

To thrive in the flatter world Friedman describes in his book, companies need innovative, responsive supply chain management solutions. That’s why our founders started the company, and that’s why they took our name from Friedman’s book. Since Flat World opened its doors, we’ve helped companies like Torque Fitness and hundreds of others gain a competitive edge by increasing visibility, accountability, efficiency, and excellence within increasingly complex supply chains. Flat World Holdings accomplishes that by offering a suite of innovative supply chain solutions that give our customers an edge in supply chain and transportation management, international freight forwarding, custom cratinghospitality supply chain project management, and supply chain management technology.

Contrary to what Shaquille O’Neal said, the earth really isn’t flat—but Flat World Holdings is here to help our customers create a supply chain built on excellence in a global market that has become even more competitive since Friedman first published his book.