What Is a General Manager?

A general manager (GM) is in charge of part or all of a company's operations, including generating revenue and controlling costs.

In small companies, the general manager may be one of the top executives. General managers commonly rank above most employees but below corporate-level executives. The responsibility and importance associated with the position may vary among companies and often depends on the hierarchical structure of the firm.

Key Takeaways

  • A general manager, working to improve efficiency and increase profits, handles the overall operations of a company or division.
  • General manager duties include managing staff, overseeing the budget, employing marketing strategies, and many other facets of the business.
  • General managers often report to higher-level managers or executives and supervise lower-level managers.
  • General managers hold various titles, such as CEO, branch manager of a bank, or operations manager.

Understanding General Manager

The general manager tends to supervise lower-level managers. These lower-level managers may be in charge of several smaller divisions but report directly to the general manager. The general manager gives specific direction for each department head.

As part of this supervision, a general manager oversees the hiring, training, coaching, and disciplining of lower-level managers. This manager lays out incentives for workers and assesses the efficiency of departments while offering strategic plans for the business based on company goals.

The general manager is responsible for all aspects of a business, including daily operations, administrative functions, and finances. Because of the enormity of the role, a big part of the job is effective delegation.

To achieve goals, general managers collaborate with higher-level managers and executives and with the employees that they supervise. This person is responsible for budgeting resources toward marketing, supplies, equipment, and hiring. Because of their high level of responsibility and complex duties, general managers tend to earn more money when compared to entry-level employees.

Qualifications for General Manager

A general manager usually obtains experience in a lower-level management position before being hired as or promoted to general manager. General managers can advance by moving into top executive positions or to larger and more prestigious companies. They must have a thorough understanding of their departments or company's operations, be skilled at managing and leading employees, and make sound decisions for the company. They must also be skilled at budgeting, planning, and big-picture thinking.

Types of General Managers

In certain businesses, the general manager holds various titles. Overall, the function is the same, which is to oversee general operations and manage high-level functions, such as finances, marketing, and staffing. In the c-suite, the chief executive officer (CEO) is considered the general manager, overseeing the entire company.

However, on a lower level, the general manager can hold various titles. Overall, the term general manager means that the person who holds the title owns and oversees a certain process in a company or is in charge of a particular unit or segment.

The difference between a general manager and a CEO is that the general manager often sits just below the executive suite, in terms of rank. Someone with the title general manager runs a line of business, whereas the CEO is a sort of general manager of all lines of business in a company.

For example, at technology companies, the general manager is sometimes referred to as the product manager. The general manager of a certain bank location is called the branch manager. In a services company, providing consulting or similar services, a general manager might go by the title of managing partner or managing director. Consumer-focused companies selling products tend to call their general managers brand managers.

Operations managers have a similar job to general managers in many ways. Like general managers, operations managers create strategies that increase efficiency and profit for a company. They also work with several departments to maintain the overall effectiveness of the business.

However, one key difference is that a general manager is responsible for all aspects of a business and its operations, whereas an operations manager is only responsible for the aspects of the business that have to do with operations and production. General managers handle a wider scope of duties, and so they're necessary at a wider range of companies. The operations manager role tends to be seen in more niche industries. Operations managers are high-level employees, like general managers, and work to connect members of different departments in ways that improve efficiency and profit.