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Forget Super GMs! Your Multi-Unit Franchise Needs a District Manager

district manager leadership multi-unit franchising planning Sep 13, 2022
Super GMs

The biggest reason why district managers fail is that instead of doing the job of a district manager, they become glorified general managers, or what we at The American Franchise Academy call “Super GMs”. 

It all starts with the lack of knowledge and understanding of what their job really is, which creates a tremendous challenge for the organization. 

Not only that. You are wasting time and investment on this critical resource because they are not performing as they should and delivering the expected financial results.

What do these leaders look like? Why is having them a bad thing for your organization? And how can they correct the path to be successful and achieve the business goals? 

That’s what we’ll review in this blog post, so you can identify this problem, be aware of its consequences, and what they should be doing to have better district performance.


General managers vs. District managers

A general manager is a manager of one unit. When they get promoted and start overseeing more units, they become multi-unit managers. That's not the same as being a district manager unless each store has a unit leader.

I have not seen many successful multi-unit managers because they have to divide their time into maximizing the profits of each unit. Unless all the units have a great stable team and the operations are going well, it would be difficult to be the general manager of two or more locations and be successful. 

But that is still not a district manager or a multi-unit leader. This person oversees a district with multiple units but they are not directly responsible for running shifts or any other general manager responsibilities.

Discover the 5 key qualities of a great district manager.


What a Super GM this looks like

When is a district manager behaving like a Super GM? When they visit the units, they end up running key shifts or being stuck in an operational position instead of only visiting and moving forward to the next unit. 

Another red alert you should put attention to is district managers who focus on putting out fires, whether it's an employee, customer, or equipment issue. They're not even unit GM because they are firefighting all day long and not moving the business forward

Something else you should be aware of is the district managers executing general manager responsibilities, such as making schedules, placing product orders, hiring staff, and handling customer concerns. A district manager should hire the leaders in their district, not the unit’s staff. 

Learn more: 5 staffing strategies that make a great impact on your business


4 consequences of having a Super GM
  • A district not strategically managed. Since the multi-unit leader is not overseeing what is going on in each of the units, they cannot smartly define what needs to be done to advance the business.
  • Opportunities are not addressed. Because they're not taking that step back and observing that the operations are serving the numbers and the metrics, then opportunities are not found. Therefore, they're not addressed and corrected the way they should.

Discover what are the three most important numbers in your business. 

  • Excessive working hours. This can quickly turn into burnout or even separation from the brand. You have invested a lot of time and effort in this district manager, so if they leave you, you’ll lose a very valuable member of your team. 
  • Loss profit. If the district manager is a super GM, the district will run the district poorly, and therefore, you won’t achieve the profitability you could


How to fix the problem?

Instead of having your district managers being a Super GM, they should be executing what we call The seven critical responsibilities of a district manager. Those responsibilities are:

  1. Lead. Develop themselves and the leaders in their district. They should inspire, coach, help, and assist the unit leaders and the team to achieve the maximum results they can.
  2. Plan. Understand and analyze the data, metrics, and reports from each of the units in the district. Then, carefully determine where they should spend their time to impact the underperforming areas.
  3. Staff. Not directly hiring the staff, but interviewing and hiring the leaders in the organization. Also, look at the staffing levels, support the unit managers, and work on the bench of future leaders.
  4. Execute. Through effective unit visits, ensure the managers and their teams are executing the brand and business systems with a high level of excellence.
  5. Maintain. Keep the units clean, safe for employees, and in proper working order so that sales are not interrupted and the turnover is low
  6. Marketing. Co-create a local store marketing plan, along with the unit manager, to increase sales. A follow-up to obtain profitability is also required. 
  7. Results. The ultimate goal of a district manager is producing positive financial results and getting the maximum profit at a unit.



In summary, the district managers should focus on what moves the business forward and makes money, not on those fires that happen throughout the operation. And, of course, analyze the information to act upon the opportunities, and achieve the expected results and the desired profitability.

To learn more about how your district manager can be more effective and efficient, register for our upcoming information session at our District Manager Training Program. There, you'll learn what it takes to be successful in this key position, so you can achieve your business and financial goals.

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  • Can you identify any red alerts in your current district managers?
  • Is your business missing out on growth opportunities?
  • Are you losing profit because of poor district management?
  • How many of the seven critical responsibilities are your district managers executing?