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The Secret Life of a General Manager

The term general manager is extremely broad, and doesn't really tell you much about the job. While it's true that general managers do indeed tackle a broad range of "general" duties, they also need a well-honed skill set in key areas to ensure that their respective businesses remain efficient and profitable with a steady stream of satisfied customers. Read on to find out what this professional does and how to become a general manager yourself.

What is a General Manager?

A general manager acts as the head of a company, business or other organization. Depending on the industry, general managers can have other titles including lodging managers, food service managers, operations managers and industrial production managers. Though you may not see the phrase "general manager" in the job title, nearly any management position that covers a broad range of duties will qualify. A general manager has many responsibilities that may change by the hour, the day, or even the season.

If you're looking for an interesting career filled with new challenges and intriguing situations, a job as a general manager may suit your needs perfectly. Strong leadership and problem-solving skills are essential for this often fast-paced job.

The Average Day of a General Manager

A general manager's daily duties include a great deal of routine. In most cases, a general manager will start the day with a review of the current state of affairs either before or during a daily meeting with staff designed to assign tasks and review procedures for the day. How this review takes place differs depending on the nature of the organization. For example:

  • Lodging managers may start their morning with a walk of the property, then review the number of check-ins, check-outs, and vacant rooms, examine the day's staffing, and check for special events or large parties.
  • A food service general manager would review the day's menu, check food stores, and look over the calendar.
  • In a business setting, the general manager may see which projects are due and review preparations for any meetings on the agenda.

Once priorities are set, the general manager is responsible for taking care of all or part of the operational needs of the organization. These include:

  • Budgets and financial planning
  • Overseeing staffing requirements
  • Planning and implementation of new products and services
  • Negotiations with vendors and other suppliers
  • Overseeing marketing strategies where appropriate

Any or all of these activities will make up at least part of any general manager's day.

While standard routines remain the same, a general manager's hourly duties can change dramatically from one day to the next of the prime responsibilities of a general manager is putting out fires. This means handling complaints from customers and employees, mediating disputes, and resolving issues.

  • A general manager at a fitness center may need to investigate a claim of stolen items in the locker room.
  • The general manager for a retail store could face product complaints.

General managers also step in to pick up the slack any time the facility is understaffed or there's an issue to deal with. As a general manager, you should be able to perform the essential tasks of all those beneath you, so you can compensate for understaffing, offer job coaching, assist with hiring activities, and provide training as needed. The best general managers can do a little of everything.

How to Become a General Manager

There are many different paths to becoming a general manager. Some jobs are available to those with as little as a high school diploma but generally this is only after working their way up through the business from a more entry-level position. Even for those with work experience, if you want to climb the ladder to a more prestigious and high-paying general management job, it's best to pursue a degree in general management. This will give you the advanced project management, marketing, and human resource skills you need to work as a general manager in a corporate office, nonprofit organization, or even a government agency.

A general manager's job is always changing to meet the needs of the customers, employees, and business. If you're a natural leader who likes to tackle fresh challenges and optimize new opportunities, this may be the perfect job for you.

For more information on Business degrees at Bryant & Stratton College, contact the Admissions office at 1.888.273.2758 or apply online

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