What Does a General Manager Do?

Learn About the Salary, Required Skills, & More

General Manager Responsibilities

The Balance / Theresa Chiechi 

A general manager, sometimes simply called a GM, has broad, overall responsibility for a business or a business unit within a larger organization. The role is particularly common in large global or multinational organizations where businesses are organized along product lines, customer groups, or geographies. The general manager typically serves as the top executive for the unit and is responsible for strategy, structure, budgets, people, financial outcomes, and scorecard metrics.

General Manager Duties & Responsibilities

A general manager's duties and responsibilities cover a lot of ground, but these are some of the most common. They must typically:

  • Oversee daily operations of the business unit or organization.
  • Ensure the creation and implementation of a strategy designed to grow the business.
  • Coordinate the development of key performance goals for functions and direct reports.
  • Provide direct management of key functional managers and executives in the business unit.
  • Ensure the development of tactical programs to pursue targeted goals and objectives.
  • Ensure the overall delivery and quality of the unit's offerings to customers.
  • Engage in key or targeted customer activities.
  • Oversee key hiring and talent development programs.
  • Evaluate and decide upon key investments in equipment, infrastructure, and talent.
  • Communicate strategy and results to the unit's employees.
  • Report key results to corporate officers.
  • Engage with corporate officers in broader organizational strategic planning.

An individual in a GM role is a generalist who is familiar with all areas of the business and can coordinate processes and operations across the organization. A general manager usually must speak the languages of finance and accounting, operations, sales, marketing, human resources, research and development, and engineering.

In larger organizations, individuals viewed as having general management potential often work in a series of assignments, rotating through the various functions and gradually growing their expertise and responsibilities over many years.

In larger organizations, the general manager reports to a corporate executive, often the chief executive officer or chief operations officer. 

General Manager Salary

A GM's salary can vary greatly depending on location, experience, and employer.

  • Median Annual Salary: $52,000
  • Top 10% Annual Salary: $102,000
  • Bottom 10% Annual Salary: $34,000

Source: PayScale, 2019

Education, Training, & Certification

The prerequisites to becoming a general manager vary depending on the requirements of the business and may include a minimum level of education, experience, and certification.

  • Education: Given the broad base of expertise and knowledge required for success in the role, general managers often have advanced degrees with an emphasis on a Masters in Business Administration (MBA) degree.
  • Experience and training: General managers typically have deep industry experience, and if they don't come up through the larger organization, they most likely have long histories of working for one or more competitors within the same industry. 
  • Certification: Some universities and other educational institutions offer certificate programs in general management. Employers don't usually require candidates to have these certifications, but they could give candidates a competitive advantage.

General Manager Skills & Competencies

To be successful in this role, you’ll generally need the following skills and qualities: 

  • Strategic planning skills: GMs must ensure the development and implementation of a clear strategic plan for an organization or business unit.
  • Financial planning skills: GMs are responsible for looking at the future of the business and making key investments and investment recommendations.
  • Interpersonal skills: GMs must be able to support the development of a healthy internal culture that retains key employees and encourages their professional development. 
  • Leadership skills: GMs are responsible for leading entire business units or divisions of an organization.

Job Outlook

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that employment in management occupations, in general, will grow 8% through 2026, which is slightly faster than the overall employment growth of 7% for all occupations in the country.

Work Environment

The role of a general manager isn't an easy one. A GM is accountable to his or her boss or corporate group for all the activities of the business unit with an emphasis on financial results. While GMs have a great deal of autonomy in operating within their business unit, they typically must justify significant investments as well as changes in key strategies or personnel. They have all the challenges of running a business, plus the challenges of reporting to a corporate group that is most likely focused predominantly on financial outcomes.

Work Schedule

GMs generally work during business hours, but depending on the employer and the demands of the job, they may work some long days, late nights, and weekends.

How to Get the Job

Develop Your Management Skills

Get to know the top management skills that employers value, as well as the common challenges managers face and how to address them.

Create a Standout Resume

Review ideal examples of management resumes to make sure you stand out among other candidates and include everything employers want to know.

Comparing Similar Jobs

People who are interested in becoming general managers may also consider other careers with these median salaries: 

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2018