The Five Minute Foreman, authored by Mark Breslin, provides foremen with the tools and time to grow and succeed in the field.  Having spoken to many union members, one of Southland’s own suggested the book be a part of a foreman’s training for all trade persons.

With the help of Southland’s superintendents and construction managers, a 10-week class began to meet every other Friday from 12:00-2:00pm. The first class focused on the purpose of the training and laying ground rules and expectations. The last class focused on what happens after the training, with the middle portion being specific book content. Each class, the foremen were expected to read ahead and discuss the topics as a group. Additionally, a superintendent would oversee the chapter being discussed, but all would chime in as necessary.

I am a plumber with the Local 38 union and I’ve been in the trade since 1982. The Five Minute Foreman is definitely worth the training. This is something I wish they had when I first became a foreman many, many years ago.

Like most, I became a foreman because I worked hard, I cared about my work, and I was always able to look ahead to keep myself and others busy. Because of this, they made me a foreman. I was already partially doing the work anyway, so why not?

My first foreman job was a smaller hospital tenant project which was going fine, until the lead foreman had some health issues and was out of work for two months. So guess what. I took over his job.

Instead of just running a crew, which seemed easy, I was doing everything a lead foreman does: scheduling, ordering, paperwork, middle of the night shut-downs and re-routes. I was way over my head. They handed the job over to me with a sink or swim attitude. I muddled my way through it. The Five Minute Foreman would have been a great tool at the time. Maybe I could have slept better back then, too.

The hardest thing for me is dealing with all the different personalities people have. Nonetheless, The Five Minute Foreman gives a lot of information about how to deal with various personalities. With this book, I now realize I could have handled things a lot differently while getting better results.

I believe this training for our foremen–especially the new and younger foremen who are not set in their ways yet–gives solid advice on how to deal with all kinds of situations that we experience in the field. We definitely want our foremen to have the best, most up-to-date training available. The more training, the more valuable we are in our given field.

I only gave one example of how this book helped me, but there are a lot more chapters with good advice on how to deal with the day to day business out in the field. I strongly recommend this book to all foremen–especially newer ones. I believe all foremen should keep this book close at hand and refer back to it, if need be.



  • James Toland


    As a foreman at the Treasure Island prefabrication shop in San Francisco, James joined the Local 38 plumbers union in 1982. Having worked on condos, apartments, laboratories, hospitals, high rises, and other markets, James is currently responsible for overseeing the work of the modular and carrier prefabrication for the Cathedral Hill and St. Luke’s hospital in San Francisco.

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