Standard business organizational models instruct larger companies with stores or offices operating within adjacent geographic locations to group these business sites into areas. In turn, areas are usually grouped into larger regions or districts, establishing the base of an organizational triangle with the company's leader, often a Chief Executive Officer (CEO), at the apex. Single office or store managers usually report to area managers, who report up the ladder to regional managers. Those who wish to become an area manager usually use one of three methods: accepting the position as a new employee, obtaining the position through promotion from a store manager position, or obtaining the position via a lateral move from another part of the company. Rarely, regional or district managers may seek to become an area manager again in order to reduce travel or job stress.
One way to become an area manager is to accept the offer of the position as a new employee. Joining a new company at this level of middle management usually means that the new hire has demonstrated the necessary leadership, problem-solving skills, team building and initiative in a comparable position at another company or employer. In some instances where an outsider is hired to become an area manager, he assumes his new position from a rival or competing company. While this situation assures the new company that the area manager has documented experience in the same industry, it may lead to protracted legal wrangling if a potential employee has signed a non-compete contract with his prior employer. Non-compete clauses may not be valid outside of a certain geographic area and may not, therefore, be applicable if the new employee happens to become an area manager outside of this limited area.
The method employees usually plan to use to become an area manager is through advancement and promotion up the chain of command. Some companies have detailed instructions, planning, orientation and education required for employees to advance up the ladder. More often, however, employees exceed their supervisors' or managers' expectations and the requirements of their current positions to earn promotion to the next level of company responsibility. This common method of advancement illustrates the Peter Principle, wherein an individual is promoted until he reaches the limits of his abilities. A strong and successful store manager would need to demonstrate both leadership and profitability in order to become an area manager.
Rarely taken avenues to become an area manager include lateral transfers within the same company or district managers seeking to reduce their work and travel responsibilities. While lateral transfers may require the new area manager to learn some new aspects of the employer's workings, he is already familiar with the company culture and invested in both time and benefits. District managers who seek to return to area management have the same favorable attributes in addition to having already demonstrated satisfactory performance in the position.