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General Manager Job Description, Career as a General Manager, Salary, Employment - Definition and Nature of the Work, Education and Training Requirements, Getting the Job

income managers management companies positions

Education and Training: College

Salary: Median—$77,420 per year

Employment Outlook: Good

Definition and Nature of the Work

A general manager directs and coordinates the operations of a small business or a department in a company. Medium-sized and large companies are divided into production, sales, promotion, purchasing, and other departments, and a general manager is typically in charge of each of these divisions. In a small company the general manager may be responsible for all operations. General managers usually report to the chief operating officer or to a vice president. They may report to the chief executive officer.

Each company has its own corporate ladder. Some companies give the title of general manager to those in charge of separate operating units. A department store chain might call the person in charge of each store a general manager. Sometimes the person in charge of a subsidiary company has that title. At some big, high-tech companies more than one general manager may be assigned to the same division. Despite these differences, the functions of all general managers are essentially the same.

General manager sitting in office

General managers take direction from their top executives. They must first understand the executives' overall plan for the company. Then they set specific goals for their own departments to fit in with the plan. The general manager of production, for instance, might have to increase certain product lines and phase out others. General managers must describe their goals clearly to their support staff. The supervisory managers see that the goals are met.

General managers direct other people to achieve their goals. Therefore, general managers must be able to delegate responsibility. They must be skilled in hiring good middle managers and giving clear, consistent directives. They must organize their divisions so that the employees know exactly what role each has to play.

General managers must understand the work of their departments thoroughly. They are constantly required to make difficult decisions about departmental activities. To make correct decisions, they must be able to read and analyze a great deal of information in a short time. If there is no reliable information, the manager must have sound judgment to make a decision. General managers must write clear reports for their senior executives. They must have strong leadership qualities and be able to get excellent performance from their support staff.

Education and Training Requirements

Education requirements vary depending on the kind of business. For example, general managers in technical or research firms often have degrees in science or engineering. In most cases candidates need a college education to be hired for executive training programs. Occasionally people without college degrees work their way up to management positions, including that of general manager. However, most employers prefer to hire applicants who have at least a bachelor's degree in business administration. Courses in management, accounting, finance, and industrial relations will prove helpful. Some large companies prefer to take management trainees with a college degree in liberal arts and a master's degree in business administration (MBA).

Many companies have executive training programs. In many training programs candidates are assigned to various jobs for a few months or a year to give them experience in many departments. By far the most important qualification for becoming a general manager is proven success in lower managerial positions.

Getting the Job

Most general management positions are filled by promoting experienced lower- level managers. Sometimes the positions are filled from outside the firm. Those who move up from within a firm usually reach top-level management positions by advancing through executive training programs. A college placement office can put graduating students in touch with organizations that have executive training programs. Interested individuals can check the newspaper classified ads and Internet job banks for jobs in management, industrial engineering, or production and quality control. Candidates can also contact large manufacturing firms, utilities, and other businesses directly. Private employment agencies geared for professional and managerial workers may also be helpful. Executive search recruiters, or "headhunters," also find jobs for people in management. Large organizations hire professional recruiters to fill the top positions.

Advancement Possibilities and Employment Outlook

General managers are often promoted to top executive positions. They may also become general managers in larger companies. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, general managers held 1,807,000 jobs in 2004. Employment of general managers was expected to grow as fast as the average for all occupations through the year 2014. However, competition is strong for top management positions, because many managers are promoted from within the company.

Working Conditions

General managers usually work in comfortable offices close to the departments they direct. Many general managers travel frequently. In national companies they have to travel to the head office or to confer with the managers of other divisions or plants. Nearly all general managers meet with their counterparts in other companies. Some travel or live abroad. They may be transferred from one position to another on short notice.

General managers in large companies often work under intense pressure. They may work much more than forty-hour weeks and be required to socialize for work. General managers in small companies may face less pressure.

Where to Go for More Information

American Management Association
1601 Broadway, 6th Fl.
New York, NY 10019
(800) 262-9699
http://www.amanet.org

National Management Association
2210 Arbor Blvd.
Dayton, OH 45439
(937) 294-0421
http://www.nma1.org

Earnings and Benefits

Salaries for general managers vary greatly. Earnings depend on the type, size, and location of the firm and on length of service. The estimated median annual salary of a general manager was $77,420 in 2004, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Those with salaries in the top 25 percent received more than $118,310 per year. Most receive additional income in the form of bonuses, stock options, and health and life insurance. Some drive company cars and receive other benefits, such as club memberships and expense accounts.

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almost 6 years ago

i'd like to know the objective, job responsibility, traning, experiance of a store manager on trading business.

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about 6 years ago

i'd like to find out the what to do in order to impress when starting a new job as general manager - fuel company

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almost 6 years ago

I would like to have sample of the Job Description for a General Manager. I would appreciate it if you could provide me with a sample. Thank you! TM

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over 6 years ago

actually i want to know about roles and responsibilities of general manager of travel agency.

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almost 6 years ago

Dear sir/mam

I would like to have sample of the Job Description for General Manager.
I would very happy and appreciated if you send me some. tq

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about 6 years ago

Having recently applied for GM of a four generation, family owned/ran Dude Ranch in WY., I would appreciate advice on the first critical steps to ingratiate myself, and becoming indispensable to the family team.

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over 6 years ago

actually i want to know about roles and responsibilities of general manager of travel agency.

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about 5 years ago

Being a General Manager (GM) is either the worst or best job in the company, depending on your internal wiring. As I was taught by Dennis Fortino, the most important word in General Manager is “general.” The General Manager must balance the perspectives of all of his or her direct reports, solid and dotted line. As you walk down the corridor from the General Manager’s office, you will see the offices of the Controller, Marketing, Sales, Engineering, Operations, Service, and Human Resources. While the first job of the General Manager is to get superstars in each of these positions, the reality is that this (almost) never happens. Thus the General Manager has to coach and shore up whatever area is weak. My rule of thumb is that if the General Manager knows your job better than you do, then your job is at risk—you had better get deeper into your job ASAP. It may be the case that the GM could do your job better, that is ok, but you are supposed to be doing it 100% of the time and he or she can only spend 10% or less on it. So get deep and make sure, through competence, that your boss doesn’t have to do your job. This generalization is true all the way up and down the organization. Each functional manager reporting to the GM must try to simultaneously represent the view of their function yet work as part of the management team to optimize the whole. It is an inherent conflict that some manage better than others. General Managers become particularly worried about direct reports who become too “tribal,” that is too focused on their team to the exclusion of the division, because they worry that they are not working for the whole company and they also worry whether or not the employee is promotable. If someone does not show respect for their peer groups today, it is difficult for that person to lead them tomorrow because leadership requires trust. Those that do their functional jobs best can clearly articulate the impact of any potential decision on their team and then on the whole division so that all of their peers and the GM can understand, and then they take their functional hats off and recommend what is best for the division and company. Not easy.

Because of this, the General Manager has to lean particularly on two dotted line reports that have no agenda other than that of the company: finance and human resources (HR). These two rabbi’s need to excel at keeping discussions with the General Manager in the strictest confidence (as long as it does not jeopardize the company) or they dramatically diminish their usefulness. A finance or HR person that gossips should be fired. The GM job is very lonely. Without a consigliere, it gets much harder and more dangerous. The Controller and HR Generalist must also make sure not to become consumed with transactional activity or they won’t have time to do their real jobs. I have seen cases where a HR Generalists worked in their office with the door closed; how can that be right? By the way, the other great, but sometimes overlooked, resource is the Administrative Assistant. It is important to pick someone for this job that is easy to talk to (not the same as someone who spends their time gabbing) so that they can feel the pulse of the organization. This provides another window into the human part of the organization for the astute GM.

Note that the Controller and HR Generalist must never get confused as to where their ultimate loyalties lie—to the company. For instance, if the Controller “goes native” and becomes more loyal to the division than the company, he or she becomes a liability to the GM because life is hell if the VP of Finance cannot trust the numbers coming from the division. This is one of the reasons Finance frequently rotates Controllers.

Because the GM does not typically have a balanced team, he or she must guard against unbalanced decisions. A simple example is in the master schedule meeting. If the salesperson is too strong relative to operations, there will be a tendency to overbuild, creating inventory, lowering the return on invested capital, and risking excess and obsolete material write-offs. If the reverse is true, the tendency is to go the other way and lose market share because of an inability to meet customer demands. It is a sin to lose a sale because of lack of units. The GM walks a knife edge in this respect. There are three big places where a GM can quickly lose their job: in the master schedule meeting (the heartbeat of the factory), in program execution, and by harassment or other improper behavior; the first two because of their huge financial impact, the third because of its enormous human impact. Note that the company cannot afford to keep a GM in a job once they suspect the person will fail—the job is just too vital. And I do mean “suspect.” Senior executives have learned a long time ago that they far too often live to regret moving too slowly than too quickly. No effective executive will wait for all of the data to be in and be conclusive. Firing GM’s is not a seven step process. Sorry. That is why good executives and General Managers need to have tons of experience—their chances of being right with fast “gut” decisions are much higher if they have seen similar situations before. This is why new General Managers are so dangerous. Our CEO often said that every new GM would cost him at least $5M in bad decisions in the first year. (I cost a lot more!) If you want to be a General Manager, you must seek to collect as many diverse management experiences as possible. Know that the bias of the executive team is to demand a lot more experiences than you are probably thinking are appropriate.

Since the most important word in General Manager is “general,” it is obvious that having experiences in all of the key areas, finance, marketing and sales, engineering, etc., is a prerequisite. For instance, it is best if engineering managers spend time in marketing and operations (which of course they do not want to do). Sometimes we give the GM candidate a pass on one area, e.g., operations. We never give the GM candidate a pass on strategic thinking. A great exercise for the aspiring GM is to be in charge of the division strategic plan at least once. For the equipment business, I think every GM candidate needs to have run a product development through its various phases. This can span one product or, better yet, many. Product development management is a great training ground for general management since its cross-functional responsibilities make it essentially a mini-General Manager position. The aspiring GM needs to have taken at least a finance short course (profit and loss, balance sheet, cash flow, return on assets, net present value, etc.) and must have had extensive customer interactions and developed significant customer relationships over long periods of time. We look for proven judgment and an ability to deal with reality like it is.

In today’s workplace, an increasing number of these functions are dotted line, which makes the job somewhat more difficult. For instance, as the semiconductor equipment business matures, we are pushed to become ever better at operational excellence. Operational excellence is a fancy word for improved productivity, which in turn means fewer people effectively doing more work. Every organizational structure optimizes something. What the company is trying to optimize governs what should be solid line (direct report) vs dotted line (influence). Let me give one example. If a company is focused first on differentiated products and second on operational excellence, we can assume that the essential functions that a GM must have solid line reporting to him or her are Marketing, Program Management, and System Engineering. Everything else is optional and properly subject to the grinding pressures of efficiency. As we look to the future, international and multicultural experience will likely become more of a requirement for business leadership.

The new General Manager must quickly assess his or her own weaknesses. This should be easy since there are usually lots of people willing to point these out. In my experience, even new direct reports that were formerly peers will join in because they realize that their success is now linked to that of the new GM. A quick 360 evaluation, ideally including customers, provides a ready diagnostic tool. Then the new GM must compensate for weaknesses and eliminate disqualifiers. For instance, my weakest area was customers—so I quickly did 220,000 international miles seeing and listening to customers. Please keep in perspective that everyone makes their career based on what they are best at. If you are good at technology, get better at it. If you are good with customers, get better with customers. This is where most of your efforts should go throughout your career. As for what you are relatively poor at, you just need to prevent this from being a disqualifier. Unfortunately, as you rise in the corporation, the threshold for what is a disqualifier gets less and less forgiving. Going from a relatively one-dimensional functional job to that of a general management job is one of the transitions most likely to expose new disqualifiers and that is one reason why it is so dangerous, and so exciting.

Of course there are compensations. The General Manager runs the business. With oversight yes, but basically the General Manager is captain of the ship. By analogy, the admiralty and commander-in-chief are far away. The General Manager will make dozens of uncontested decisions each day. If you want to be in the nexus of strategy and action, this is the place to be. Your BlackBerry will be crammed with crises when you wake and emotionally explosive issues will plague your sleep. But if you are jazzed by multidimensional Gordian problems, if you love combat, if careening from financial issues to human resource issues to customer issues within a space of 60 minutes excites you, there is no better job. If you like thinking about strategy in the morning and tactics at night, you are in the right place. (But don’t let the urgent overwhelm the important. This is particularly dangerous in the age of the BlackBerry. Take time to think!) Unlike the CEO job, the General Manager is largely shielded from the board of directors, financial analysts, Sarbanes-Oxley, SEC investigations, and so forth. The General Manager’s is a pure job—take your army into the field and win. But if worrying brings on ulcers and laying off whole teams (I have had to do this twice) gives you heart palpitations and nightmares, find a different job. (On the other hand, if it doesn’t bother you a lot, you should definitely not be in the job.) Aside from all of the natural disasters, some of your customers are actually sophisticated enough to profile you and target actions designed to create anxiety for you just so that they can have a marginal advantage in some negotiation. Sweet.

It is worth spending a minute discussing potential rules for putting Divisions together. The key challenge is not killing the small division by putting it in with a large. For me, the Ocom’s razor is whether or not the Division General Manager will view the new addition of the smaller Division as an opportunity or as a burden. In general there needs to be operational synergy, strategic synergy, or passion. For operational synergy, pick divisions of similar size. Never combine if a burden.

An essential skill the General Manager must practice is the deep dive, even in areas where the GM is not knowledgable. Sometime I see a General Manager go too much with their strengths and spend too much time with the areas they understand most. Given the General Manager’s integrating charter, this is a mistake. It is impossible to know every detail in the division, but the General Manager should follow his or her intuition (and coaching and internal intelligence) and dig deep in areas of importance. Cultivate truth-tellers. Some employees will tell it like it is regardless how lofty your position. Such people are invaluable. Listen to them. How deep should you dive? As deep as you can go. Every time you do this it improves your intuition about your business and the people you have running it. It also sets the right example. In virtually every case you are guaranteed to find something awful. Don’t get discourage. Turn it into a teachable moment and go on. Everyone gets better. Given that you are guaranteed to find turds, pick areas that are important. And what if it is an area where you have little experience? That’s simple. It is the obligation of the GM to demand that the team explain things so that he or she understands it. It is ok to ask stupid questions. As my hero Ken Levy taught me, if someone cannot explain to you why something is true so that you understand it, perhaps it is not true. Now each of us have intellectual limitations that prevent us from going as deep as some other human beings. For instance, there is math that I just cannot get. It is not a question of trying harder—I am no more capable of “getting it” than is my goldfish. But such situations are far and few between in business. Indeed, if a concept is so hard to understand, how can one expect a whole team to work on it? And almost nothing in business is done by one person. So if you are General Manager, do not let anyone ever intimidate you out of challenging their knowledge and reasoning. If you are working for a General Manager, understand that these inquisitions are not an issue of lack of trust—it is an obligation that comes with their job, and every other management job too.






The opinions here do not necessarily represent the views of any past, present, or future employer.

I am particularly interested in comments and stories related to my business essays and on pointers to original or insightful references. Thank you.
Lance

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almost 6 years ago

Dear sir/mam

I would like to have sample of the Job Description for General Manager.
I would very happy and appreciated if you send me some. tq

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about 6 years ago

i really had good infermation about general MANAGER but i looking responsiblity and strenth and jobprofile of the general manager if is available its really good to me. thanks for above details

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about 6 years ago

private sector

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almost 5 years ago

I would like a full benefits, conditions and the career path from a receptionist to the GM position.

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about 4 years ago

i would like to know about job description and job specification of general manager

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over 4 years ago

Want to know more about the scope of work that is done by a general manager.

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over 4 years ago

i would like a sample of the duties and responsibilities of a GM

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about 5 years ago

very good post...
thanks sir.
web designer companies | web designer professional





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over 5 years ago

pls send me the management tips on my on daily / weekly basis.
it will help to my carier

regards

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over 5 years ago

I have recently been appointed head of the Biometric Division as well as Training. WHat would the appropriate title be?

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over 5 years ago

I want to read the documents in this website

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over 5 years ago

i would like to know the first step to take as a new general manager of an electronic outlet.

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over 5 years ago

Please can you forward me a sample of General Manager portfolio for my project

thanks

uma

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over 5 years ago

Hi,
I m working as GM at wall putty manufacturing company since 1.5 years. i m impressed after reading this. thanks for this information.

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over 5 years ago

sir,very thanks for ur infermetion

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almost 6 years ago

Am grateful for this information, i'd like to have sample of Job Description for a General Manager on what to do in a new job i started with investment company the operation segments are(Private Equity, Media and Information Technology, Travel & Tour, Real Estate, Agriculture and Business Advisory Services).

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almost 6 years ago

Hi,



I am General Manager in Carpet Industries. and very impress your for

this information.



Thx,



Thakur Sanjay Singh Ranawat.

India.

Mob: 9559594255.