What a General Manager Actually Does

If you had to write a General Manager Job Description, what would it look like? What would the key responsibilities be? What credentials would be required? How would a day in the life unfold? How much does a general manager make? These are all common questions for those who may be considering this as a possible career option. We will explore them together below.

Key Responsibilities

A general manager is typically someone in charge of a department who is a level below senior management [1]. Given this, they generally have a great deal of the operations responsibilities as part of their role, rather than more strategic roles of top management.

One of a general manager's most important responsibilities is to recruit, hire, train and mentor management level staff. Essentially, they are responsible for ensuring that all of the management staff in their department are aligned with the needs and goals of the department as a whole. A good general manager, or GM, will create an environment of high achievers.

General managers are also responsible for creating standard operating procedures for their department. These standard procedures play a key role in ensuring consistent common practises. Some of the key procedures typically include procurement, production, marketing, customer service and sales [2].     

In my role as a general manager I found that the key focus was on managing revenue, profit and customer service metrics. What I mean by this is that you are typically comparing current results to previous results to see if the department is on track. Based on this information you address areas that need improvement.

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Credential Requirements

In a typical general manager job description they are expected to have had previous management experience. When applying for such a role a company will look for evidence of success in the areas of recruiting, training, performance management, policy implementation and budget management. Some other credentials that will set you apart include five years of management experience in the same industry, knowledge of labour laws, a University degree in Business and strong communication skills [3].

Personally, I have found that the things that a hiring company will look for are generally consistent across industries. Most organizations believe that you can teach many of the skills to the "right person". The most important attributes to posses to make you the "right person" are an ability to regulate emotions under stress, self awareness, goal orientation and openness to learning new things.

 A Day in the Life

In the general manager role the day-to-day routine will vary widely. Typically, someone new to this role will constantly be trying to keep up with the day-to-day demands of the job. They will be bombarded by requests from employees, clients and superiors. The role will initially be mostly composed of "putting our fires", or resolving issues. As the skill of a GM increases, they will become better at prioritizing their day and, therefore, not only deal with requests sooner but also be proactive and able to prevent a good portion of the issues before they occur. Essentially, as skill grows you gain more control over your day.

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Typical Salary 

The typical salary of a GM depends largely on two factors. The first is the size of company that you are working for. Typically, larger companies pay more for someone in the GM role than smaller companies because they generally have a larger scope of responsibility. The second determinant of salary is experience level. If someone is hired to learn the role they will be paid much less than someone who has years of experience in the role.

Given the range in pay I know that you still want to hear some numbers so here goes. The median salary for a general manager in the United States is $60,455 [4]. The lowest paid GMs earn $34,000, although this is a bit of an outlier, and the highest paid GMs make over $110,000.

Personally, in my experience as a GM, my position started with a $40,000 base salary with another $10,000 in bonus opportunity. Each year there was roughly a $5,000 increase in base salary.

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What to do now

We have discussed a few things about GMs. We have covered their key responsibilities, credentials required, a day in the life and typical salary. If you think this might be a career for you, take action and go get it. Most of all, have fun.