The Global Irishman: Liam Casey’s borderless world
Crucial to this harried assembly line of high-volume high technology are the millions of rural migrants who flow to Shenzhen to work in its factories. While often arduous and repetitive, the work can earn them a much better living than they can squeeze from the countryside. In just 20 years, Shenzhen has grown from a small fishing village to a metropolis with twice the population of New York City.
Thanks to the recent flourishing of more interactive, Web-based applications, the process isn’t over when the products leave China on the early-morning Fed-Ex flight. From Shenzhen, Casey’s people can monitor the blogs where consumers are raving about – or ripping on – his clients’ products. The real-time feedback allows them to tweak the supply chain quickly, fixing any problems at a speed impossible before the advent of “Web 2.0” sites like blogs and wikis.
Globalization is not just hype or business-speak but reality in full swing.
Now, bringing a new product to stores – which often took companies years to do on their own – commonly takes just six months. Casey calls this “disruptive commerce.” This is the notion that these growing, interacting flows of information, people, concepts, and capital add up to more than just lower costs and faster trade. New ideas and products which, in the past, may have looked too risky to back can now leave the drawing boards and come to life.
Meanwhile, Casey’s clients can focus on conceptualizing the next hot handheld device.
Casey is modest about the success he has enjoyed in his business, but I sensed a tiny blink of pride at his notion that he’s helping to shake up the order.
While southern China and the U.S. are central to his enterprise, Casey sniffs out local strength wherever it lies, which is why the company’s headquarters are still in Cork. Ireland has well-known education and tax advantages, but Casey also likes it for its time zone. A California client can talk to customer service in Cork, where the sun is still up, instead of a bleary-eyed nightshift worker on the other side of the globe.
The ties between countries may be multiplying, but most places still have their own strengths and character. Casey smiled while recalling a story from one of his Irish engineers who went to China several years ago.
“One of the last billboards he saw on the way to Dublin airport was a beautiful lady in a Wonderbra. And he arrived in Shenzhen 24 hours later and the first billboard he saw was an industrial molding press, so he knew he was in the right place,” Casey chuckled.
Ironically, one of the local strengths Casey sees in China is its ability to think globally. In the U.S., he said, they talk about the American dream. In China, “it’s the global dream.”
Casey seems to embody both a strong appreciation of local details and the ability to think and work comfortably across time zones, currencies, systems, and borders – in short, local expertise combined with global perspective. While most of us are grounded in one culture and place, as most of humanity has always been, Casey is one of a small number who live a globalized life on a day-to-day basis.