What Is a General Manager?

General Manager

Investopedia / Dennis Madamba

What Is a General Manager (GM)?

A general manager (GM) is responsible for all or part of a department's operations or the company's operations, including generating revenue and controlling costs. In small companies, the general manager may be one of the top executives.

In hierarchical organizations, GMs rank above most employees but below corporate-level executives. The responsibility and importance associated with the position may vary among companies and often depend on the organization's structure.

Key Takeaways:

  • A general manager is expected to improve efficiency and increase profits while managing 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 branch manager, brand manager, or operations manager.

Understanding the Role of a General Manager (GM)

The GM supervises lower-level managers. These lower-level managers may be in charge of several smaller divisions but report directly to the GM. The GM gives specific directions to each department head. As part of this supervision, a general manager oversees lower-level managers' hiring, training, and coaching. In addition, the GM may lay out incentives for workers and assess the departments' efficiency while offering strategic business plans 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, GMs collaborate with higher-level managers and executives and with the employees that they supervise. This person is responsible for budgeting resources for marketing, supplies, equipment, and hiring. Because of their high level of responsibility, complex duties, and the need for extensive relevant experience, GMs earn more than entry-level employees.

Requirements for a General Manager

A GM typically gains experience in a lower-level management position before being hired or promoted to GM. GMs can advance by moving into top executive positions or to larger and more prestigious companies. They must thoroughly understand their departments or company's operations, be skilled at managing and leading employees, and make sound decisions for the company. They must also possess:

  • Budgeting, planning, and strategy skills
  • Problem-solving abilities
  • Business processes and functions knowledge
  • Communication skills
  • Analytical ability
  • A college or graduate degree, which would vary by industry

General Manager Responsibilities

General managers are usually responsible for overseeing the day-to-day operations of the overall workforce. Other responsibilities can include:

  • Maintain budgets and identify areas to improve in
  • Set policies and processes
  • Oversee recruitment and training
  • Evaluate operational and financial performance
  • Ensure regulations are followed
  • Provide solutions

Types of General Managers

A GM may hold various titles. But, overall, their role is the same: 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 GM overseeing the entire company. At the departmental level, the GM might oversee a specific process in a company or be in charge of a particular unit or segment.

The GM sits just below the CEO in the executive suite in terms of rank. A GM runs a line of business, whereas the CEO is the GM of all lines of business in a company.

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

Operations managers have a similar job to GMs. Like GMs, 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.

Salaries and Job Outlook

Pay for general managers varies by industry and company, but the Bureau of Labor Statistics has published data for average general manager pay for industries with the highest GM employment levels:

 Industry Hourly Mean Wage  Annual Mean Salary 
Restaurants $31.10 $64,680
Management, Scientific, Technical Consulting $69.91 $145,400 
Company and Enterprise Management  $76.55  $159,230 
Computer Systems Designs  $70.65  $146,950 
Merchant Wholesalers  $57.91  $120,440 

The wage estimates for general and operations managers by percentile are:

  • 10%: $473,260
  • 25%: $60,690
  • 50%: $97,970
  • 75%: $151,750
  • 90%: < $208,000

General managers are found in many industries, so the outlook is fair. Overall, general manager employment is expected to increase by 6.7% through 2031, but significant changes are anticipated in several industries. Here are a few:

  • Coal Mining: -24.5%
  • Tobacco Manufacturing: -53.4%
  • Apparel Manufacturing: -36.9%
  • Printing and Related Support Activities: -23.5%
  • Manufacturing Magnetic and Optical Media: -50.8
  • Book Stores and New Dealers: -47%
  • Florists: -29%
  • Misc. Store Retailers: -23.8%
  • Newspaper, Book, Periodicals Publishers: -22.1%
  • Cable and Subscription Programming: -21.2%

Fossil fuels, apparel, traditional printing, physical stores, and other traditional general manager employers are expected to reduce their number of GMs. This is likely due to the trends in technology, a switch to green energy, a focus on health and corporate social responsibility, and the large switch in consumer behavior to online shopping.

There is still plenty of employment opportunity as a general manager, however. Wind and solar power generation, electric component manufacturing, passenger transportation, and many others are expected to grow from a few percent to more than 30%.

Topping general manager employment expectations by 2031 are insurance and employee benefits company general managers, with an anticipated 66.7% increase in employment. In addition, general managers in arts and entertainment, performing arts, sports, event promoters, artists, writers, and amusement parks are expected to grow between 20% and 50% by 2031.

General Manager vs. CEO

General managers are people who manage several different departments within a company. One of their largest responsibilities is overseeing their departments, sections, or work site. They coordinate duties and ensure their departments are on track to accomplish the goals set by the executives.

A chief executive officer is the top leadership position in a company. CEOs are responsible for strategic planning, long-term decision-making, operational oversight, and fiscal oversight.

General Manager vs. Operations Manager

While a GM is responsible for all aspects of a business, an operations manager is only responsible for operations and production. A GM's responsibilities are broader in scope and include HR, marketing, and strategy.

An operations manager's role tends to be more specific, with experience in a particular niche industry.

What Does a General Manager Do?

A general manager oversees a workforce, budgets for the work that needs to be done, ensures the company is staffed, and many other higher-level business functions.

Is General Manager a High Position?

General managers usually have several lower-level managers reporting to them, so it can be a high position. They are not executive-level, but usually, they report to the executives.

What Is a General Manager vs. a Manager?

The level each manager is at varies by business structure and industry. For instance, in a company with divisions and departments, managers supervise employees at the division level, whereas a general manager would manage at the department level.

The Bottom Line

General managers oversee daily operations and budgets and ensure company goals are met. Most GMs require progressive management experience and a college-level degree in business or their field.

The job outlook for GMs is high in certain industries and low in others, but these highly skilled professionals will be in demand and remain very well paid for their work in the foreseeable future.

Article Sources
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  1. U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. "11-1021 General and Operations Managers."

  2. U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. "Employment Projections | 11-1021 General and Operations Managers."

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