Pinch! A Tiny Multi-Tool Boasts Over 11 Functions

pinch multi tool

So small you may forget it’s there, yet packed with purpose, the Pinch multi-tool can lend a hand if you find the need to make a quick fix.

Yet, coming in at an inch and a half long and a half-inch wide, it can sit on your keyring and not get in the way until you need it.

Pinch boasts more than 11 different functions in under two inches. The small metal tool contains a mini pry bar, bottle opener, hex wrench, wire stripper, nail puller, 1” mini ruler, 1” mini scraper, hex bit holder, and two flat screw drivers measuring 4mm and 6mm.

Phew! That’s a long list.

The diminutive Pinch multi-tool comes in several options. It is constructed out of sturdy titanium or the less expensive stainless steel. You can also choose between U.S. standard and metric measures depending on what system you use regularly. There are also plans to possibly release matte black and antique copper finish options.

Pinch is not the first multi-tool to be dreamed up by its creator, Jeff Morin. Morin is an entrepreneur with several companies already under his belt. According to Morin’s website he started his first company while serving active duty in the Marine Corps.

This first company, Coins For Anything, makes custom-made collectible coins customers can design and order in bulk.

With the success of his first endeavors and having gained knowledge on metal manipulation, Morin decided to try his hand at creating multi-tools. Morin told CBS News:

“We are disciplined about staying in our lane, and we weren’t in the multi-tool business… I felt we could expand there, but needed a way to see if the market agreed with me, without diverting resources from our main business.”

Morin’s solution was to give crowdfunding a try and has since completed seven fully-funded Kickstarter campaigns for various multi-tools such as the Knuckler, Mantis and Cricket, and Fidelis.

It seems Morin is not one to change a system that works because the entrepreneur has taken to Kickstarter again to launch Pinch. Like the previous campaigns before, Morin quickly surpassed his funding goal and has raised close to $30,000.

For those interested in pre-ordering the Pinch multi-tool, the early bird pricing for the stainless steel model comes in at $19, titanium will cost you $24. You can also view more of Morin’s products here.

Image: Jeff Morin/Kickstarter

This article, “Pinch! A Tiny Multi-Tool Boasts Over 11 Functions” was first published on Small Business Trends

Don’t Know Much About History, Civics, Geography

(Image: bet.com)

Time for another history lesson.

Only about a quarter of eighth graders showed solid performance or better in U.S. history, civics, and geography on tests known as the Nation’s Report Card.

The 2014 results from the National Assessment of Educational Progress released Wednesday were similar to those four years ago when the assessments were last administered. Students did better overall in U.S. history and civics than their peers in the 1990s when the tests were first given, but geography scores have remained stagnant since 1994.

[Related: More Time on Task Leads to Better Student Results]

Among the findings: Less than half — 45% — of eighth-grade respondents were able to correctly interpret time differences using an atlas with time zones. Only about a third knew that “the government of the United States should be a democracy” is a political belief shared by most people in the U.S.

Michelle Herczog, president of the National Council for the Social Studies, said the results “point to a need for immediate action.” Tackling issues like terrorism, human rights, race relations, and poverty require a deep understanding of the historical and geographic context, she said.

“How do we, as a nation, maintain our status in the world if future generations of Americans do not understand our nation’s history, world geography, or civics principles or practices?” Herczog said.

A breakdown of the test and results:

How Students Did:

Only 18% of students demonstrated solid performance or better in U.S. history. The results for geography and civics were slightly better, 27% and 23%, respectively.

A large share of the eighth graders who took the test scored at the “basic” level, meaning just partial mastery of the subjects. Only 1% of test takers in U.S. history, 3% in geography, and 2% in civics scored in the advanced level.

Read more at the New York Times

The Good and the Evil of Time Tracking

time finch

A recent article featured in Harper’s Magazine is making some waves for its take on time tracking and workplace monitoring. The article in question, entitled “The Spy Who Fired Me,” makes the case that time tracking and workplace monitoring software “has taken on a life of its own.”

The author, Esther Kaplan, makes some valid arguments about the dangers of work monitoring software.

One example cited is of a woman who works for high-fashion retailer, Century 21, in New York City. “She’d been selling watches from seven in the morning to three-thirty in the afternoon to accommodate evening classes, but when that availability was punched in to Kronos, the system no longer recognized her as full-time. Now she was getting no more than twenty-five hours a week, and her shifts were erratic.”

Throughout the article, time tracking and workplace monitoring is portrayed as a very one-sided tool companies use to eliminate costs at the expense of their employees, using the data to keep employees from being classified as full-time or receiving benefits.

Unfortunately, however, the article only tells part of the story.

Without a doubt, abuses of time tracking software do occur and good people do pay the price. When properly and ethically used however, time tracking software can actually be very beneficial to employer and employee alike. How so? What are some of the ways that time tracking can benefit both parties?

The More You Know

A major shift occurred in the 20th Century in terms of the workforce, with the rise of the “knowledge worker.” In the modern workplace, the most valuable commodity is not a person’s labor, but the knowledge they possess.

As industries have become more specialized, it has resulted in virtually every worker being a knowledge worker.  According to Evan Rosen of BusinessWeek:

“In reality, everybody today qualifies as a knowledge worker. Every worker has knowledge and information that the organization can tap to find out: Why is a particular product underperforming in one market? What action can we take to fix the problem quickly? If we take these actions, can we handle an increased production schedule? What’s the impact on cash flow if we make these changes?”

For the average business, however, it can be a real challenge to understand how such a worker contributes to the company’s bottom line. For example, if a computer programmer works on multiple software projects within a company and some of the code he writes for Project A is also used in Project B, how much did Project B really cost? What is the value of the resulting software?

Proper time and project tracking software can help companies understand and account for the contributions of their employees, despite the more challenging metrics by which those contributions must now be measured.

Projects of Future’s Past

Another important benefit of time and project tracking is having a clear understanding of the true cost of a given project.

According to McKinsey & Company, large IT projects run an average of 45 percent over budget and as much as 7 percent over time. Even worse, the affected projects deliver only 56 percent of their projected value.

This is where proper time and project tracking can make a big difference. By properly tracking past projects, a company can more accurately predict the cost of future projects. This, in turn, helps reduce the risk of the company going over budget or losing money on a project.

This is especially true as companies learn to interpret data, recognize trends and act accordingly. For example, if a company specializes in a particular kind of project and completes a dozen similar projects in a row, they should be able to use the data and milestones from those projects to see how the next project is going. If they are 10 percent through the project but five percent past the budget milestone of the previous dozen projects, they can make adjustments before it’s too late.

We Can Build It, We Have the Technology

An often-overlooked benefit of proper time and project tracking is better resource allocation. For example, a company may have a customer that seemingly hogs resources, ties up the best personnel and generally makes a pest of themselves. There may be those in the company who advocate letting go of such a customer in favor of less problematic ones.

Time and project accounting, however, may show that while the customer takes up 20 percent of the company’s resources, it generates 40 percent of the company revenue. That information may help everyone have a new found appreciation of that customer and may even help alter how the company approaches them. Perhaps, rather than pulling people away from that customer, it would be beneficial to devote even more resources and increase the ROI.

Another aspect of resource allocation is proper logistics support. When a company can have reliable data on which customers, projects and departments are generating the most revenue, it can help identify where individuals and departments are being crippled by outdated equipment, procedures and the like.

Not Just Another Assembly Line Automaton

Another significant benefit of automated time tracking is the time and effort it can save a company’s payroll and billing operations. Rather than manually processing timesheets, the right software can automate the process. This can be a significant savings as the payroll personnel don’t have to waste valuable time running down mistakes or reminding employees to submit their timesheets.

For the employee, an automated system can mean more time spent actually working rather than dealing with a tedious, frustrating and time-consuming timesheet system just to get paid.

Everything is Cool When You’re Part of a Team…

As the above shows, time and project tracking can be a valuable tool a company can use to streamline operations, improve estimates and properly allocate resources. When that happens, a company can generate more profit, enjoy increased stability, offer better pay and benefits; all without doing so at the expense of the employees.

The key is to recognize time and project tracking for what it is: a powerful tool. It’s not inherently evil, nor is it inherently good. Like all powerful tools, it will either help or hurt people depending on how it’s used and the motivations of the business owners, executives and managers who use it. While, obviously, a proponent of time tracking, I have always emphasized the need for management to use time tracking tools in a responsible and ethical way.

For example, in an article I wrote for Small Business Trends titled, “3 Benefits of Tracking Your Time Accurately,” I emphasized the need for management to lead by example, tracking their own time as their employees are required to do. In that article, I wrote:

“The most obvious reason for an owner or executive to keep track of their time is the boost in motivation it provides to the rest of the company. This is especially important with a topic that’s often met with as much resistance as time tracking.

If the owner or executive of a company sets the lead in tracking his or her own time, it can be a powerful motivator toward helping employees to do the same and overcome the negative stigma time tracking can sometimes have.

As with anything, the success of accurate time tracking on a company-wide basis depends largely on the example that you, the owner or executive, sets. By establishing time tracking as something equally important for management and employees alike, you can help your company be more profitable, help your employees to become personally invested in the company and help yourself to be even more productive.”

When properly used, time tracking does not demoralize employees and squeeze every last minute out of them. Proper use of time and project tracking software helps companies streamline their operations, not by exploiting their employees, but by improving project estimation, management, billing and resource allocation.

If more companies used time and project management software the way it should be used, responsibly and ethically and for the benefit of company and employee alike, Ms. Kaplan’s article would no doubt have had a far different tenor.

Handmade Soap Photo via Shutterstock

This article, “The Good and the Evil of Time Tracking” was first published on Small Business Trends

5 Exemplary Women Leaders in the US Army

When it comes to securing and protecting the United States, women are thriving in leadership positions throughout the Army. From coordinating health services and readiness for commands to providing the necessary tools to mobilize and sustain military personnel, here are a few black women who are blazing trails for other women while also making history.

[Related: From the Battlefield to Business: 5 Savvy Steps to Transition Into Entrepreneurship]

Specialist. Jessica Jones

On July 16, 2013, Jones made history as one of the first women to attend the U.S. Army Ordnance School’s Artillery Mechanic (91P). Historically, the 15-week military occupational specialty has been restricted to male students. According to army.mil, Jones and Spc. Angelika Jansen are the first females to hold the military occupational specialty. The course is one of six the Army opened to women as part of an effort to loosen the combat exclusion provisions under the Direct Ground Combat Definition and Assignment Rule.

Continue reading on the next page…

How the Baltimore Riots are Impacting Small Businesses

businesses affected by baltimore riots 2

Baltimore businesses are dealing with riots, looting and violence — as well as a citywide curfew imposed on April 28 — following civil unrest stemming from the suspicious death of a 25-year-old black man while in police custody.

Because of the curfew, enforced within the city between 10 p.m. and 5 a.m., restaurants and other businesses need to close earlier than usual. In addition, some business owners have chosen to temporarily close down — either as a precautionary measure or in response to vandalism — until the curfew’s end, slated for this coming Monday.

“There’s a huge police and National Guard presence,” Steve Diamond, president of Synergy HomeCare, a franchise that provides in-home care for the elderly, told Small Business Trends.

He noted that some restaurants and other small businesses within the city are hurting from the curfew. Exponentially increasing the damage is the timing: now is when Baltimore blooms from its annual tourist infusion.

“This is the time of year when folks arrive and walk around the harbor,” he said. “Now, who knows what will happen. They’re keeping the National Guard here.”

Synergy HomeCare is based in Towson, Maryland, and serves residents in the city and in Baltimore County. While it is located outside, it employs caregivers who reside in the city. Still the company has felt minimal impact from the curfew and Diamond says his ability to provide services was not curtailed.

Because of the nature of Synergy HomeCare’s services, it is not beholden to the curfew. However, two of its caregivers who live in the city were unable to work Wednesday night.

Employee Clinton Brockenbrough loads boxes being evacuated in response to the Baltimore crisis.

Two Men and a Truck employee Clinton Brockenbrough loads boxes being evacuated in response to the Baltimore crisis.

“They were reluctant to leave their houses so we reassigned two cases,” Diamond said, adding that this wasn’t a problem as the company always has backup personnel in the event a caregiver can’t work on a given night.

“We did become more proactive,” he added. Company personnel called employees early to see who was available to work in the event that additional staff members were needed.

Two Men and a Truck, a moving service company that also offers storage solution, temporarily relocated its headquarters following the eruption of protests this week.

“There was violence one mile away from us,” said Lori Geros, operations manager for the company. Two Men and a Truck moved from the Baltimore area to Columbia, Maryland, to share space in a partner company’s facility.

“Some items were put in storage and all valuables were locked up in case there was any looting,” Geros said. “We moved all the trucks and other vehicles to the other location as well.”

The protests interrupted the company’s operations for about a day or two, Geros said. While the company lost some business due to cancellations, most customers rescheduled. The curfew didn’t pose a problem, since moving is typically done during the daytime.

Overall, “the impact wasn’t that bad,” Geros said. “Customers understood. We recovered quickly.”

Geros watches the news steadily, however, and also regularly checks social media sites Facebook and Twitter for updates. “Until the curfew is lifted, there is a threat,” she said.

Of some concern is speculation that the looting and violence could begin again based on whatever information is released tomorrow regarding the results of the investigation into the April 19 death of Freddie Gray. Gray, a 25-year-old black man, suffered a fatal spinal cord injury while in police custody.

“Things have calmed down, but we’re being very cautious,” Geros said.

Two Men and a Truck is already planning to help clean up Baltimore once the protesting ends.

“We do a lot of charity work throughout the year,” Geros said. She added that the company is nicely situated to provide any assistance the city may require. “We have the trucks and we have the people,” she added.

Robb Tacelosky operates Our Town America. The company works with sponsors, many of which are small businesses, to welcome people who relocate to the Baltimore area. He said the protests and related violence were “upsetting” because they “put Baltimore in a bad light.”

Some of Tacelosky’s sponsors operate inside the city of Baltimore. He is speaking to many of them as the situation there develops.

Overall, none of Tacelosky’s sponsors experienced looting or violence, he said. Some were even benefiting, though at a cost to other businesses, he added.

The owner of a liquor store told him that sales have increased significantly since the curfew was imposed. “The bars have to close early,” Tacelosky said, adding that some people apparently are purchasing liquor to consume in the safety of their homes since they can’t visit a bar.

Another sponsor of Our Town America is the Ultimate Play Zone, a family entertainment destination that describes itself as “11,000 square feet of pure, clean fun.” It features inflatable play stations.

Ultimate Play Zone is allowing children under age 6 free admittance on Monday.

“Families are their core business,” Tacelosky said.

He believes other sponsors will make similar gestures as well as provide help with any rebuilding and cleanup efforts required.

“I work with a lot of small businesses,” he said. “In general, small businesses consider themselves part of the community.”

Images: Two Men and a Truck

This article, “How the Baltimore Riots are Impacting Small Businesses” was first published on Small Business Trends