Several years ago I invited a guest speaker to my class. This person was the general manager of a local inn in our community. He was very well prepared for the lecture and described the organization chart and staff he had developed. After he explained the work that goes on in the various departments and the responsibilities of the respective super- visors, a student asked, “What do you do as the general manager if all the work is being done by your staff?” This type of honest question has always made me terribly aware that the role of the general manager is not easy to understand. Indeed, detailing this managerial role could ﬁll volumes, encompassing decades of experience. However, the legitimacy of the question still compels me to be speciﬁc in describing this very important job in the organization chart.
The leadership provided by the general manager is undoubtedly the most important quality a person brings to this position. He or she orchestrates the various department directors in meeting the ﬁnancial goals of the organization through their employees. The general manager is required to use the full range of managerial skills—such as planning, decision making, organizing, stafﬁng, controlling, directing, and communicating—to de- velop a competent staff. Performance is judged according to how effectively supervisors have been directed to meet the goals of the organization. Efﬁciency depends not on how well tasks are performed, but on how well employees are motivated and instructed to meet the goals and objectives of the plans the general manager and staff have formulated. Figure 2-4 presents a group of managers, supervisors, and frontline employees who carry out the goals of the general manager.
The plans developed by the general manager along with the department supervisors provide the vision the business needs to compete for the hospitality markets. The evalu- ation of candidates for positions based on a well-structured division of labor begins the process of meeting the goals and objectives of the planning stage. Who should be chosen to meet the demands of a leader of operations? What skills and strengths are necessary to get the job done? What business acumen must this person have? What vision does this person bring to the job? How will the new hire ﬁt into the existing staff? These are just a few questions that a general manager must consider and act upon.
The operational reports—operational data on critical ﬁnancial aspects of hotel oper- ations—that a general manager must review can be overwhelming. However, the efﬁcient general manager should know which key operating statistics reﬂect the proﬁtability and efﬁciency of operations. Do the food cost percentage, labor cost percentage, alcohol bev- erage cost percentage, and sales item analysis provide enough information to indicate the success of the food and beverage department? Are the daily occupancy percentage, av- erage daily room rate, and total sales for the day adequate to indicate a proﬁtable hotel? Each general manager has developed key indicators that measure the ﬁnancial success and operational success of various department directors. These concepts are ﬂexible, de- pending on the goals the corporate ownership has established.
Communicating ideas and goals and providing feedback on performance are skills the general manager must develop. The general manager is a pivotal link in the communi- cation process. Each department director takes the lead from communications received (or not received) from the general manager. Weekly staff meetings serve as a major vehicle for sharing communication. In addition, individual meetings with department directors enable the communication process to become more effective. At these one-on-one meet- ings, the department director can transform. organizational goals into operational functions. The general manager offers supervisory training to his or her staff in practical terms. For example, the director of marketing and sales may have set a goal of increasing guest room sales by 10 percent for the next quarter. At an individual meeting with the general manager, the director of marketing and sales will agree to meet that goal over the next four months.
What does a general manager do? He or she provides leadership to meet organizational goals of proﬁtability and service. It is acquired by studying theories of management and the behavior. of other managers as well as actually practicing leadership and receiving constructive criticism from superiors on efforts expended. The role of general manager is a professional position. It is a career goal based on operations experience and education.
The role of the general manager, whether in a full-service or limited-service property, must encompass the concepts previously discussed. The general manager in a limited- service property may perform. additional hands-on responsibilities, but he or she is required to provide leadership to the other members of the management team. The use of total quality management (TQM) concepts, which involve application of managerial concepts to understand operational processes and develop methods to improve those processes, allows managers in full-service and limited-service prop- erties to extend their role of leadership to frontline supervisors and employees. In full-service and limited-service properties, where proﬁt margins are based on lean departmental budgets, total quality management is encouraged.