BlogCareersWhat Does a General Manager Do? | Roles, Skills, Advice

What Does a General Manager Do? | Roles, Skills, Advice

Are you thinking about working your way up to managerial position one day, but want to know more about what that means? Perhaps the role of a general manager is one that’s piqued your interest.

We’ve had a chat with general manager, Michael Brabant, to hear all about his experience in the role, how he got there and what he does.

Keep reading to find out more!

Meet Michael
What is a General Manager?
Steps to Becoming a General Manager
Future Outlook
Best Thing & Worst Thing
Advice for Aspiring General Managers

Meet Michael

Michael has been a general manager at Single O for the past 5 years. With experience in marketing and sales, Michael found himself working up to a general manager role where his leadership and ability to focus on the business and its people came into play.

Studies and Experience

After six months studying Physical Education at university, Michael took on a Commerce degree majoring in Marketing. Studying these two areas together led him into the sports marketing world where he built a career from his interests in sports.

After completing his degree, he worked with a brand on a promotional event to learn from the people around him and gain experience in the field. 

Role of General Manager - Quote

Following this first job, Michael worked as an event executive, a marketing assistant and then as a brand manager.

Not only did he immerse himself in the world of marketing and corporate branding, but Michael took the time to travel and experience other cultures. He also worked with ASICS in Amsterdam in a senior marketing role.

After more than 10 years working in marketing and branding, Michael has been able to take this experience and combine it with leadership and management in his role. As a general manager, it is important to have background experience in a relevant business area, for instance finance, operations or marketing and sales, like Michael. 

What made you want to work in this industry?

Growing up, Michael played a lot of team sports and took up leadership roles within these. 

“I never really had a plan…” Michael said, “but these skills have served me well in the style of leadership for this job.

The general nature of the job attracts me to it — being able to work across diverse backgrounds. You’ve got to love people, and interacting with people, to solve problems collaboratively.”

What is a General Manager?

A general manager is someone that oversees the daily operations of a business. Their job is to organise people and business activities that drive a firm towards its targets. 

Roles and Responsibilities

The role of a general manager can involve planning business policies, managing staff members, and ensuring all departments (i.e. human resources and finance) are working towards common business goals and targets.

The main components of Michael’s role as a general manager are:

  • Creating a vision for the business
  • Managing a group strategy to help achieve the business’ goals
  • Leadership and management of different departments
  • Communication with departments

Michael said, “I look at the brand and how it is perceived in the marketplace, consumer outcomes — engaging with clients and looking at return and retention, how happy is the place of work and the culture, and operational outcomes — how efficient are we?”

Which industries can this career be found in?

General managers are present in a number of different workplaces and industries including:

  • Commercial trading
  • Manufacturing
  • Public administration
  • Technical services
  • Health care

Characteristics and Qualities

Role of General Manager - Characteristics

Above all knowledge, the value of general managers derives from their ability to deal with people and the business harmoniously. The ability to carry out the activities of a general manager, specifically planning and prioritisation, building relationships and guiding staff, are considered as more important than the foundational communication and listening skills. 

Michael said, “I focus on the brand and the people, because the cultural side is the key ingredient to the functioning of a business.”

As such, general managers need to be critical thinkers that can work around business situations whilst taking into consideration the financial, operational and marketing aspects of a firm. Further, a general manager should be a people person — someone that can work with employees at all levels and ensure the business is operating cohesively. 

Steps to Becoming a General Manager

What should you study?

Becoming a general manager is not reliant on your educational achievements, but rather experience gained in the relevant industry. So technically, you do not need a university degree or any formal qualifications to become a general manager. 

That being said, studying business or commerce related degrees at university is a common first step to becoming a general manager. 

Some degrees you should consider include:

Michael became a general manager with over 10 years of experience in sales and marketing. His experience in senior and high level managerial positions through marketing have led Michael to his current position with Single O. 

So if you are looking to become a general manager down the line, take the opportunities that come your way to build up your experience!

How long does it take to become a General Manager?

Depending on the company you work with, your previous jobs and experience, it can take five to ten years to become a general manager after approximately three to four years of tertiary education. 

Industry Knowledge

Like almost every, if not all occupations today, you need to be able to use basic Microsoft Office programs. Further organisational and management softwares will vary between companies.

What will this career look like in the future?

How in-demand is this career?

The position as a general manager has consistent demand across numerous industries as it is vital to maintaining a business’ operations and driving the firm forward towards its goals. 

Are there opportunities to grow or specialise?

Technically, a general manager is an opportunity to grow and work your way to a higher position in a business. 

However, depending on the business structure, a general manager could work towards a higher managerial position that overlooks more departments or works closer with executive staff members. Regardless of the business, there is always room to grow as a manager which could also involve working for a different company.

Salary

Annual SalaryFuture GrowthSkill Level Rating
$95,000 to $200,000Stable over the next 5 yearsVery high skill

Influential Trends

The shifts in workplaces to more collaborative environments has shaped changes in the role of a general manager. More specifically, general managers need to be able to listen to and work with input from staff at various levels of the business to help the business work collectively. 

The Future of this Industry

As more and more businesses adopt a flat organisational structure, which means less of a hierarchy and a greater focus on collaboration, the role of general managers is changing. 

“I think it’s already developed in a way… and it’s people first more than ever,” Michael said.

People need guidance and clarity, and I do think there’s a higher weighting to how we should treat people in the workplace — with compassion and empathy, being pragmatic and understanding different perspectives.”

Best Thing & Worst Thing

What do you enjoy most about this job?

Michael said, “One, the people. The ability to have interaction with staff at all levels, like someone packing coffee or a barrister working at the store. You get to connect with anybody and everybody, and I enjoy learning everyone’s personal motivation and beliefs.

“Two, the diversity of the role and the broad nature of it. Every day is slightly different because of the problem solving aspect. You need to be flexible to change and you have got to love problem solving, because often issues don’t have an answer.”

What do you feel is the worst part of this job?

Losing the trust of an employee — when you lose someone you like as a friend and you lose as an employee is one of the not so great parts of the job,” Michael said. 

Advice for Aspiring General Managers

What do you wish you had known before you started working in this career?

“Explore the world, live in another country, work with another culture! You can’t underestimate the importance of understanding humans and companies as a manager. So I would advise people to go live and work in another country with a different culture,” Michael said. 

Why should people consider taking on this career?

Michael said, “If you love people and you love solving problems across diverse outcomes, mapping it into a simple plan for people to understand,” then a general manager role might be something for you to work towards.

“You’ve got to love leadership and coaching!” he added.

Job Flexibility

With the COVID-19 pandemic, the majority of jobs have been made flexible with work-from-home arrangements. 

Like all permanent and full-time positions, general managers have entitlements to leave. Further, with today’s technology a general manager has the flexibility to largely work online. 

What is the workplace culture like?

As a general manager works with all levels of a business and the different departments, the workplace culture can be considered a collaborative environment working towards shared business goals.


Nandini Dhir is a Content Writer at Art of Smart and is currently studying a Bachelor of Arts (majoring in Marketing) and a Bachelor of Advanced Studies (Media and Communications), as a Dalyell Scholar, at Sydney University. She enjoys covering local issues in her area and writing about current events in the media. Nandini has had one of her pieces published in an article with the Sydney Morning Herald. In her free time, Nandini loves doing calligraphy, ballet, and sewing, or is otherwise found coddling her cats.   

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