What Is General Management? Definition + Jobs

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General managers work in a variety of industries to oversee day-to-day operations. Discover more about general management and whether it's the right job for you.

[Featured image] Operations manager works in an office at a laptop computer

People in general management are the go-to leaders of businesses—places like factories, offices, restaurants, retail stores, and hotels. In this role, you'd be in charge of an organization’s daily operations,  branch, or a department. Your duties will encompass a little bit of everything. You'll oversee employees, handle bookkeeping, resolve customers' problems, maintain company culture, and ensure your employer has everything it needs to profit from products and services.

While no single path that leads to becoming a general manager, learn about the education and experience requirements, skills, salary and job outlook, and where you may work.   

What is general management?

General management is a field that applies to multiple industries. General managers are responsible for managing employees, day-to-day operations within a branch, or a department. 

For example, you may shop at a retail store that has multiple locations across your region. While the store may have several assistant managers or supervisors, it will likely also have a general manager who is in charge of everything that goes on at that specific location. They oversee all of the employees for that store, and they answer to the company’s regional or corporate executives. 

Common job titles in general management

When searching for jobs, keep in mind the different titles and roles in general management. Two titles that can be used interchangeably with general manager includes:

  • Operations manager: In this role you’ll oversee daily operations of a store, restaurant, hotel, factory, and more.

  • Branch manager:  Your job is to manage and oversee one particular branch or location for a business with multiple locations across a larger geographical area. This title is typically used in larger companies. 

Duties and responsibilities

As a general manager you’ll have various duties and responsibilities, ranging from hiring and training employees to setting sales goals and implementing company policies. Ultimately, your goal is to improve the performance and sales of the entire organization. Your duties will vary depending on your industry,  some of these include:  

  • Interviewing, hiring, and training new employees

  • Recruiting new employees 

  • Supervising all employees within your branch or department, including supervisors and assistant managers 

  • Setting up regular goals and objectives and motivating your employees to meet them

  • Creating a positive work culture that attracts and maintains good employees 

  • Handling issues with technology and equipment as they arise or sourcing these issues out to the right people  

  • Participate in organization-wide marketing plans   

  • Communicate between corporate and your staff

  • Performing basic bookkeeping and human resources duties, including payroll and budgeting

  • Regularly monitoring the work environment and look for areas where improvements can be made  

  • Ensuring your work environment is clean, safe, and all aspects are functioning properly

Skills and competencies

The skills you'll need as a general manager will vary from job and industry. For example, if you're a general manager in the restaurant industry, you'll likely need some experience and general knowledge of how a restaurant operates. Here are some skills that you’ll need to suceed as a general manager.  

Leadership

General managers are leaders. You'll be managing a group of employees ensuring that they stay on task, help them with problems, and encourage them to do the best they can at work. If you want to become a general manager, take time to improve your leadership skills through courses, volunteer opportunities, or professional organizations. 

Multitasking

You'll be overseeing your location's operations, which means handling various tasks. Your employees and assistant managers can take on some of the tasks, but it's up to you to make sure they get completed. On top of that, you might be handling payroll, dealing with customers, making next week's schedule, and receiving information about a new company policy at the same time. You'll need to be able to prioritize and complete tasks.   

Read more: 6 Time Management Tips to Boost Your Productivity

Technical skills 

At a minimum, you'll need to have good computer skills and understand software programs or POS systems. Understanding social media, Microsoft Office, and email systems like Outlook can also be applicable. You may need to know how to use other equipment, like a cash register or a communications system that allows you to make contact with your employees no matter where they are. 

Math skills

As a general manager, you'll be handling cash, overseeing finances and sales, possibly working on payroll, and working with other financial information. Good math skills can go a long way in ensuring your work is always accurate. 

Bilingual 

Being bilingual isn't always necessary to become a general manager, but it can give you a competitive edge. Some companies specifically seek out bilingual employees. If you speak another language, you may be qualified for a job where many employees or customers also speak that language. Languages to consider learning include Spanish, Portuguese, Mandarin, and German. 

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Organization 

With so much to oversee every day, you may find your work more manageable if you stay organized. First, you should know where everything is, from office supplies to backup inventory. You'll also need to organize your time so you can finish all of your daily or weekly tasks.  

Customer service 

As a general manager, you'll likely interact with customers. While you may not serve them as regularly as your employees do, you may need to handle complaints or problems, and you'll have to do so with a positive attitude. If the organization you work for has customer service policies in place, implementing and following them is part of your job. 

Problem-solving 

Not only will you be handling customer problems, you'll solve employee problems too. If an employee calls in sick, you'll have to find someone to replace them on the schedule. You'll have to identify the error if the daily bookkeeping doesn't match up with the cash flow. When equipment stops working or the bathroom overflows, it's your job to fix it or find the right person to fix it for you. Not only is it essential for general managers to be good problem-solvers, but you'll need to think fast to come up with good solutions.  

Self-starter

Finally, a general manager must be a self-starter. While you'll likely have superiors, they may not be there to encourage you on a daily basis, so you'll have to take the initiative to keep everything running smoothly and remain motivated to do your best for the organization. 

Industries where general managers work

According to US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), 3.4 million general managers were working in the US as of 2021 [1]. That's because almost every industry needs general managers. They can manage:

  • Restaurants

  • Hotels

  • Retail stores

  • Supermarkets

  • Insurance offices

  • Factories

  • Technology companies

  • Health care facilities

  • Wholesale services  

Take a look at four common environments where you'll find general management jobs. 

1. Restaurants and hospitality 

Restaurants, hotels, entertainment and recreation facilities, and other businesses within the hospitality industry all require general managers. This is one area where experience in the field, especially for restaurant general managers, is highly valued. Many people start out as chefs or servers and work their way up to management. This industry can be fast-paced, and you'll spend your days ensuring your customers and guests have a pleasant time when they visit your facility. Some of your job duties might include:

  • Hiring employees with excellent customer service skills

  • Ensuring your facility is clean and inviting

  • Handling day-to-day finances and cash flow

  • Understanding reservations systems

  • Keeping your facility safe and secure  

2. Retail outlets

Big box chains, supermarkets, and other retail outlets of all sizes almost always have general managers. As with the hospitality industry, many people start at lower-level positions in retail and work their way up to general management, but don't discount your education, as a degree or some type of certification may be required for the job. As a retail general manager, some duties may include:

  • Managing your staff and the day-to-day operations of the store 

  • Performing bookkeeping tasks  

  • Ensuring customers are satisfied 

  • Having the flexibility to work nights, weekends, and holidays  

3. Offices

Many general managers also work in offices in various industries, like insurance, real estate, health care, and more. If you're a general manager in an office environment, your duties may include:

  • Creating a regular weekly schedule

  • Having to be on call outside your working hours

  • Talking to vendors and customers

  • Working at a desk 

4. Factories

Many general managers work in factories in the manufacturing industry. Like the retail industry, you'll spend your days overseeing employees and daily operations. You may work directly with customers as you would in other work environments, but you’ll need a flexible schedule as manufacturing jobs can include nights and weekends.  

Industry outlook and salaries

According to BLS, general managers and operation managers made an average annual wage of $115,250 as of May 2021 [2]. The top industries that hire general managers include:

  • Restaurants 

  • Management, scientific, and technical services 

  • Companies and enterprises 

  • Computer systems design 

  • Merchant wholesalers

Glassdoor reports that general managers working in gourmet restaurants, factories, resorts, and tech companies were likelier to earn more than general managers in other businesses. 

Why study general management?

Consider studying general management to land a specific job or work in a particular industry. If you want to become a general manager, work experience is invaluable, particularly in your desired industry, but don't discount an education. 

Many companies require those who work in general management to have at least a bachelor's degree in general management or a related field. Some may even require more advanced degrees or certain types of certifications. According to Zippia, 56 percent of general managers have a bachelor’s degree, and 19 percent have an associate.[3] Even if a job doesn't require it, showcasing those courses, degrees, and certifications on your resume could help make you more competitive.  

If you're a naturally born leader who enjoys directing and setting a positive example for others, you may be a good candidate to study general management. Other great reasons to study this field include: 

  • You are ready to advance your career in your current industry or company.

  • You're interested in one day starting and managing your own business.

  • You want to improve your leadership skills.

  • You want to gain skills and knowledge to help you succeed in the business world.

  • You want to enhance your resume. 

  • You want to open up the number of job prospects by gaining new skills.

  • You want to earn a higher salary.

  • You want to build your professional network. 

Preferred qualifications in general management

Every general management job will have unique requirements, preferred qualifications, and experience. Some people start in lower-level management jobs or even entry-level positions and work their way up the ladder at a company through experience gained on the job. This way, they know exactly how the organization functions from the bottom up. Some businesses even prefer to hire managers from within their own talent pools.

Pursue a bachelor’s degree.

Many employers may require at least a bachelor's degree in general management or a related field. Some may even require more advanced degrees or certain types of certifications. Degrees in business management, business administration, or a related field may help set you apart from the competition. According to Zippia, 56 percent of general managers have a bachelor’s degree, and 19 percent have an associate. Even if a job doesn't require it, showcasing those courses, degrees, and certifications on your resume could help make you more competitive.  

Consider a master’s degree.

While an advanced degree is not usually necessary for general management jobs, some companies may require you to have one. The industry where you work, your job duties, and the number of employees you'll manage could decide whether you'll need a master's degree. Even if you don't need a master's degree, earning one may help you advance your career even further if that’s your goal. 

A Master of Business Administration (MBA) degree is a common choice for general managers who want to advance their education. To qualify to earn an MBA, you'll generally need some work experience, a good undergraduate GPA, good GRE or GMAT scores, and letters of recommendation. 

Read more: Master’s in Management vs. MBA: Which Is Better?

Available certifications for general management 

Like certain degrees, certifications in general management may not be necessary for the job. Still, they can help set you apart from your competition. You may also come across a job that requires an industry-specific certification to quality for the position. Here are some certifications to consider:

  •  Certified Manager Certification offered by the Institute of Certified Professional Managers (ICPM). Though offered in the United States, the certification is recognized around the world. The program contains three sections: Foundations of Management, Planning and Organizing, and Leading and Controlling. Each section takes 30 hours to complete [4]. 

  • American Management Association's (AMA) Certified Professional in Management certification. It covers professional effectiveness, business acumen, relationship management, analytical intelligence, and more. The AMA also offers certifications in other related areas, like leadership, employee training, and diversity and inclusion. 

Get started  

If you're ready to start working towards a career in general management, consider taking some courses online that provide knowledge and the skills you'll need for the job. Improve your leadership skills with the Strategic Leadership and Management Specialization course from the University of Illinois. Find these courses and more, including certifications and degrees offered by some of the top universities in the world on Coursera. 

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Article sources

1

US Bureau of Labor Statistics. "Occupational Outlook Handbook: Top Executives, https://www.bls.gov/ooh/management/top-executives.htm#tab-1." Accessed November 7, 2022.

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