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How to Become a General Manager

Do you have excellent communication skills, a solid foundation in business principles, and strong leadership qualities? The opportunity to pursue a career as a general manager might be a good fit for you.

General managers are responsible for the daily business activities of a company. They typically perform a variety of tasks, including developing business plans, preparing and managing budgets, creating and implementing policies, and effectively communicating business goals and objectives. General managers should be well versed in business strategies, self-motivated, and have great interpersonal skills. 

General managers should have the ability to motivate staff, work effectively with internal and external customers and vendors, and manage operational costs. Exceptional customer service skills and the ability to identify and implement business strategies to improve production and stimulate growth are required. General managers do everything from evaluating employee performance, to analyzing accounting and financial data, to generating reports and making presentations. Outstanding leadership qualities, a solid work ethic, good interpersonal skills, and exceptional attention to detail are key to your career as a general manager. 

Sample job description

We are looking for a general manager to oversee our company and join our team. As the GM of [Your Company Name], you will play a key role in our management team. You will skillfully and efficiently oversee the whole business to achieve our set monthly goals and maintain our standards of quality. Our success depends on our employees and their attention to detail as well as their ability to communicate effectively with our customers and team.

Typical duties and responsibilities

  • Hiring and training new staff to perform at their maximum potential
  • Creating, following, and maintaining strategies for growth
  • Manage staff performance 
  • Develop plans for maximum productivity
  • Develop new business relationships and maintain existing ones
  • Oversee day-to-day operations while setting weekly goals 
  • Maintain project timelines and ensure timely completion

Education and experience

  • High school diploma or equivalent (minimum)
  • Bachelor’s degree in business (preferred)
  • Five years of experience

Required skills and qualifications

  • Leadership and maintenance of a large number of employees
  • Exceptional customer service
  • Ability to multitask while remaining organized 
  • Basic computer skills required to perform daily activities

Preferred qualifications

  • Certified Manager Certification
  • Project Management Professional Certification
  • American Management Association Certification
  • Bachelor’s degree and a considerable amount of work experience is a plus
  • Analytical skills to make adjustments to meet the goals and objectives set by superiors

Typical work environment

Typically, general managers work in an office or retail location in order to direct their employees. Traveling frequently may be a common occurrence, especially in retail, due to commuting to other departments or stores. Large company GMs can be under a lot of pressure and stress, especially during holidays or busy work weeks, and will typically work 40-hour, or more, weeks. Smaller companies typically deal with less pressure, but still remain busy. General managers can be located in restaurants, hotels, private firms, organizations, grocery stores, etc.

Typical hours

General managers typically work 40 or more hours a week. As a manager, you must be prepared to work until the job is finished, and that means working overtime, with some general managers potentially working up to 60-hour weeks. You will work late nights, weekends, and holidays depending on the industry you manage.

Available certifications

General managers can work in a variety of industries and professions. Here are the certifications that can be useful in any management position:

  • ServSafe Food Protection Manager Certification – This certification shows that those who possess it have sufficient knowledge of food safety, how to operate a kitchen, and serve safely. Benefits of this certification include many restaurant owners requiring it, and will ultimately choose to hire those with one over someone who does not. To obtain ServSafe certification, you must go through the proper training and pass a test first.
  • Certified Sales Professional – Becoming certified as a sales professional will teach you modern strategies and techniques to master the art of sales. You will obtain the ability to handle large accounts with strategic customers. To be eligible for this certification, you must have a college diploma, 35 hours of education in sales aligned with the CSP framework, a minimum of 4 years of experience managing clients, and evidence of meeting and/or exceeding targets for 2 years. You can be exempt from these requirements if you have at least 6 years of verified sales experience. Obtaining this certification will open many doors for new opportunities.
  • Certified Management Accountant – The CMA certification is based on financial reporting and planning. You will learn to prepare financial statements, create budgets, and supervise accounting staff. This certification will help you stand out in the industry. To obtain this certification, you must hold an active IMA membership, complete and pass parts 1 and 2 of the CMA exam, and hold a bachelor’s degree from a related certification program. 
  • OSHA Safety Certification – Obtaining this certification proves you have industry knowledge on safety topics in the workplace. You will learn ways to prevent injuries in the workplace, and keep it a safe and productive environment. An OSHA 10 card means you have completed 10 hours of OSHA authorized training, but most employers are looking for an OSHA 30 card which means you must complete 30 hours of OSHA courses. 
  • Certified Professional Food Manager – This is an affordable program that offers more convenient and flexible options for those looking to receive ServSafe certification. This certification can be completed completely online, but you will also need to take a food manager training course in order to pass this exam. 
  • Project Management Professional – Becoming PMP certified shows employers that you can earn 20% more than those without this certification. Applicants must have at least 7,500 hours of project management experience, 35 hours of related education, or have a 4-year degree with 4,500 hours of experience leading projects and 35 hours of project management training. 

Career path

To become a general manager, you must first earn an associate or bachelor’s degree in business management, business administration, finance, or other related field. Internships can be very helpful, as you gain valuable experience in administrative support, project management, project coordination, scheduling, and teamwork. After completing your degree and internship, you can then find a part-time or full-time position that incorporates the skills you’ve developed. Collaborating with other professionals can be very beneficial in this field as communication is a key component to becoming a successful general manager.

US, Bureau of Labor Statistics’ job outlook

SOC Code: 11-1021

2020 Employment2,411,900
Projected Employment in 20302,638,200
Projected 2020-2030 Percentage Shift 9% increase
Projected 2020-2030 Numeric Shift226,300 increase

The general manager outlook is projected to increase by 9% in the next 10 years. With many brick-and-mortar stores closing or being challenged by online shops, grocery and retail stores have less of a need for general managers. However, larger companies that fulfill online orders are still in demand for general managers to operate their day-to-day production. Chief executive managers are projected to decline as much as 10% due to office technology improvement, but GMs will continue to increase as they can fulfill this need. Successful general managers will need to stay up-to-date on the newest techniques and technology as our world continues to evolve.