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General Manager Career Guide

What is a general manager?

A general manager plays a central role in both strategic planning and day-to-day operations, making it one of the most important positions in any organization. They oversee nearly all aspects of their company’s operations, including sales, marketing, customer service, product development, and human resources. Their main goal is to help the company operate efficiently and profitably while maintaining a positive, professional environment.

Being the primary decision-maker, the manager’s value is evident in their ability to drive the company toward its goals. They actively participate in designing business strategies and implementing plans to create a successful path for growth. These professionals bridge the gap between senior management and the operational team, ensuring the company’s strategies align with their daily work.

Duties and responsibilities

As the operational team leader, general managers are responsible for overseeing the implementation of business strategies. They set sales targets, create comprehensive business plans, and hire and train new staff. They also take on the task of making sure that all employees are working toward the company’s goals and targets. Likewise, these professionals review performance metrics to diagnose issues and make necessary changes to drive company success.

Another key duty is handling the company’s budget, which involves setting financial targets, preparing budgets, and ensuring all departments meet their financial objectives. They also deal with stakeholders and clients, maintaining relationships and negotiating contracts. These managers are instrumental in resolving conflicts within their team, creating a positive work environment conducive to productivity.

Work environment

General managers often work in a corporate office environment, though the specifics can vary greatly depending on the industry. Some may work in retail, hospitality, and manufacturing sectors, while others may work in more specialized fields like technology or healthcare. Regardless of the industry, they typically work in a fast-paced and challenging environment, given the significant responsibility and decision-making required.

While their work primarily involves desk work and meetings, they often get opportunities to travel for client meetups, conferences, and corporate events, especially in larger organizations with multiple branches. Also, these managers must be prepared to deal with unexpected problems and emergencies, demonstrating the importance of crisis management skills.

Typical work hours

General managers often work well beyond the traditional 9-to-5 workday. This position typically requires long hours, including evenings and weekends, particularly when important projects or tasks are underway. The need for overtime often arises due to the need for problem-solving, strategic planning, or urgent decision-making.

Some managers may also be on call, meaning they must be available to handle emergencies or critical situations outside normal working hours. This can involve dealing with significant customer issues, resolving conflicts among staff, or responding to unexpected events that impact the company’s operations. Those considering this role need to be prepared for the extensive time commitment that comes with it.

How to become a general manager

This career guide section outlines the steps to become a general manager. With several integral steps, from obtaining a relevant degree to gaining specialized experience, this guide provides comprehensive instructions for securing the role.

Step 1: Obtain a bachelor’s degree

The first and one of the most significant steps is obtaining a bachelor’s degree. Many employers prefer candidates who have studied business management or a related field. During these degree programs, students gain foundational knowledge of business principles, including finance, marketing, and organizational behavior.

Step 2: Gain practical experience

Once you graduate, it’s essential to start gaining hands-on experience in the business world. This experience, alongside your academic knowledge, will be valuable later when managing a business. Start in entry-level positions and work your way up, learning about all functions of the company and understanding the dynamics of the working environment.

Step 3: Aim for a management position

As you gain familiarity with a company’s operations, you should aim for a management position. Having previous experience as a manager or department head will broaden your understanding of many aspects of the business. This experience is also valuable on your resume, proving that you can handle supervisory responsibilities.

Step 4: Earn a master’s degree (optional)

While not always necessary, obtaining a master’s in business administration (MBA) can open many doors for aspiring general managers. It provides deeper knowledge of the business world and broadens your network. Additionally, it often gives candidates an edge when applying for upper-level management positions.

Step 5: Develop key skills

No matter your education or experience, certain skills are essential for this role. You must be an effective communicator, a good leader, and an excellent problem-solver. Developing these skills could involve attending workshops, reading relevant books, or even undergoing professional coaching.

Step 6: Apply for jobs

Once you feel sufficiently prepared, the final step is to start applying for general manager positions. Tailor your resume and cover letter to highlight the skills, experience, and education most relevant to the job. Be prepared to demonstrate your competence in an interview setting and showcase your ability to effectively manage people and business operations.

How much do general managers make?

General manager salaries will vary by experience, industry, education, location, and organization size. Pay scales are influenced by factors such as their efficiency in overseeing operations, developing strategies and plans, and meeting goals.

Highest paying industries

  • Pharmaceuticals – $142,000
  • Aerospace and Defense – $135,000
  • Technology – $130,000
  • Energy – $125,000
  • Finance and Banking – $122,000

Highest paying states

  • New York – $150,000
  • New Jersey – $145,000
  • California – $140,000
  • Connecticut – $135,000
  • Virginia – $130,000

Browse general manager salary data by market

Types of general managers

Below, we explore common career types and specializations for general managers. This section will provide you with an overview of the major areas in which they can operate, bringing clarity to the diversity of this profession.

Operations general manager

As someone who oversees the day-to-day activities of a business, an operations general manager can work in a range of industries. From retail outlets to manufacturing plants, their chief responsibility often involves managing staff, setting objectives for teams and individuals, and ensuring that the company’s everyday business activities align with its strategic goals. They also take charge of key operational aspects like budgeting, reporting, and compliance.

Hospitality general manager

The hospitality industry, which includes hotels, resorts, and similar entities, often has roles for general managers. Drawing upon their experience in guest service, administrative tasks, and knowledge of the hospitality industry, these professionals work to achieve a fine balance between optimal guest experience and operational efficiency. They handle many tasks, such as managing staff, providing excellent customer service, and adhering to the budget and sales plan.

Sales general manager

General managers in sales capacities often hold high leadership positions within an organization. Their main goal involves developing strategic sales plans that expand the customer base and ensure robust and consistent growth. They’re responsible for managing all sales operations, building and maintaining customer relationships, conducting competitive analysis, and attending key meetings to represent the sales department.

Restaurant general manager

General managers in the restaurant industry assume comprehensive oversight of a restaurant’s day-to-day operations. Their roles typically cover staffing, employee training, customer service, inventory management, and maintaining regulatory compliance. These positions often require managers to understand the restaurant business deeply, emphasizing food, beverage, and service standards expertise.

Top skills for general managers

This career guide section outlines the skills and abilities that will help you find success as a general manager. They can be found across diverse industries, from hospitality and retail to technology and manufacturing. Each industry might require its own specific understanding and knowledge, but the core skills and traits remain similar.

Leadership skills

As a general manager, you’ll be at the helm of your operation. Consequently, strong leadership skills are a significant asset. This involves a balance between delegation and taking an active role. Success in this role means inspiring and motivating your team, being decisive, and leading by example.

Strategic thinking

Navigating fluctuating market trends, setting practical goals, and making strategic decisions are all part of their role. Strategic thinking enables you to plan for the future effectively, ensuring your company remains competitive and ahead in its industry.

Financial acumen

Good financial knowledge is essential, as you’ll likely oversee budgets, financial planning, and costs. This isn’t just about crunching numbers. Rather, it’s about reading, understanding, and interpreting financial data to make informed business decisions.

Communication skills

Excellent communication skills are necessary to facilitate clear, accurate, and efficient information exchange. From leading team meetings to negotiating with suppliers to presenting plans to stakeholders, effective communication helps in maintaining smooth operations and strong relationships.

Problem-solving ability

Every day will present a new set of challenges. To navigate these effectively, managers must have excellent problem-solving abilities. This involves being able to analyze situations accurately, consider various potential responses, and choose the most effective solution.

General manager career path options

If you’re working as a general manager, your next step on the career ladder could be to advance into more senior-level positions, which often come with more responsibility and a higher rewards package. This typically requires honing both your management skills and industry knowledge. Some common paths include becoming a district or area manager, where you’ll oversee operations of multiple locations or departments, or moving toward a director-level role based on your field of expertise, such as sales, operations, or human resources.

Another potential career move is stepping up to a vice president (VP) role. As a VP, you will oversee strategic planning for a specific company segment. This role commonly demands experience managing multiple teams and strongly influences the company’s overall strategy.

Following the VP role, the natural progression would be into executive-level appointments such as the chief executive officer (CEO) or other similar C-suite positions, depending on the organization’s structure. In these roles, you will be integral in shaping the company’s future, making strategic decisions, and leading the overall business direction.

Additionally, a role at the board level could be an option. Becoming a board member requires substantial experience and the ability to provide insightful guidance to the company’s direction. This isn’t an operative role usually, but rather one that advises and oversees the work of others at the executive level.

After gathering substantial experience as a general manager and in higher managerial positions, you may decide to branch out independently as a business consultant or entrepreneur. Using your accumulated knowledge and insights, you can provide valuable services to other companies as an external consultant or start your own business in a field you are passionate about.

The role and necessity of general managers have seen quite a shift in the corporate ecosystem. While their authority and responsibilities remain integral, many organizations are fostering a more collective decision-making process. This trend moves away from a strictly hierarchical power structure. Managers across industries are required to be more collaborative. Emphasizing teamwork, many organizations value leadership skills that can cultivate a cooperative atmosphere.

The accelerating pace of technology advancements has also influenced the role. Understanding data analytics, digital trends, and tech-savvy problem-solving solutions is becoming increasingly important. Managers adept in technology and digital platforms are highly valued in today’s evolving business context. This includes online marketing strategies, e-commerce, and leveraging social media platforms.

Employment projections

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment for general and operations managers is expected to grow by 6% through 2031, as fast as the average for all occupations. This rise is expected due to managers’ essential role within an organization.

General manager career tips

Excel in financial management

Overseeing budgeting and financial planning demands an in-depth understanding of financial management principles to delegate the organization’s resources efficiently. Consider attending financial management workshops and seminars or self-study using books and online courses to give you a firm grasp of this critical aspect of your role.

Master the art of strategic planning

Strategic planning is at the heart of thee role and requires foresight, analysis, and innovative thinking. You might have to make complex decisions impacting the organization’s future. Participate in industry symposiums or take advanced management courses emphasizing strategic planning and decision-making.

Hone your leadership skills

You must inspire, motivate, and lead diverse teams, often in challenging circumstances. Take advantage of leadership development programs and trusted mentors to help you grow and refine these skills.

Build a professional network

A robust professional network can provide insights, ideas, and opportunities. Consider joining groups that gather professionals in your field.

  • American Management Association (AMA)
  • Association for Executive and Administrative Professionals (AEAP)
  • United States Chamber of Commerce

Strive for continuous learning

The business world is always evolving, and it’s vital that you keep evolving as well. Engage in continuous learning to stay informed of current trends and tools that can improve your efficiency and effectiveness.

  • Attend industry conferences and seminars
  • Subscribe to industry-relevant journals and newsletters
  • Consider acquiring advanced qualifications, like an MBA or a doctorate in business administration (DBA)

Prioritize certification

Getting certified can enhance your credibility and demonstrate your competence to your current or future employers. Consider certifications like the Certified Manager (CM) from the Institute of Certified Professional Managers or the Certified Business Manager (CBM) from the Association of Professionals in Business Management.

Where the general manager jobs are

Top employers

  • Marriott International
  • Walmart
  • McDonald’s
  • Amazon
  • Starbucks

Top states

  • California
  • New York
  • Florida
  • Texas
  • Illinois

Top job sites

  • zengig
  • Indeed
  • LinkedIn
  • Monster
  • SimplyHired


What are the key qualities needed for a successful general manager?

Successful managers typically possess strong leadership, strategic planning, and problem-solving skills and are effective communicators. Financial acumen and an ability to cope with pressure are also highly valued.

What academic qualifications are necessary for general managers?

Most positions require, at minimum, a bachelor’s degree in a relevant field such as business administration. An MBA or other advanced degree can be valuable and is often preferred by employers. Some organizations may require industry-specific certifications as well.

What does a typical day look like for general managers?

The daily routine can be highly varied. Typical duties may include planning and coordinating the team’s work, making strategic decisions, setting performance goals, and liaising with stakeholders. Overtime can sometimes be required, especially during busy periods or when handling issues that require immediate resolution.

Do general managers need to travel frequently?

This often depends on the organization’s size and scope. For larger, multinational companies, it might involve regular national or international travel. For smaller local businesses, travel may not be required or limited to occasional trips.

What kind of professional development opportunities are available for general managers?

There are many opportunities for professional growth. Many organizations offer access to advanced management training programs and encourage continued education. Attending industry conferences, participating in networking events, and joining relevant professional associations can provide valuable development avenues.

What is the work-life balance like for general managers?

Work-life balance can often be a challenge, given the responsibilities and demands of the role. Managers often need to be flexible and available outside regular business hours, although many employers increasingly recognize the importance of a healthy work-life balance and implement supportive policies.

What are the main challenges or difficulties for general managers?

Some challenges include managing a diverse team, dealing with budgetary restrictions, making difficult decisions under pressure, and juggling multiple tasks or projects. However, these challenges can also offer opportunities for growth and personal development.

How can a general manager stay updated in the industry?

Keeping up-to-date can involve reading industry publications, attending networking events, participating in relevant webinars, or joining professional associations. It’s also beneficial to regularly review market trends and updates and seek continual learning opportunities.

Are there opportunities for remote work as a general manager?

This largely depends on the organization and the nature of the tasks involved. Some managerial work can be done remotely, especially with technological advancements, but on-site work is often necessary. This can vary significantly by industry and specific job role.