How Entrepreneurs & Business Leaders Win Queen’s Honours

by | Jul 7, 2020

“Awarded for Services to Business” – many entrepreneurs who read the Honours lists twice a year and see other business leaders who received an MBE, OBE or other Queen’s Honours with that citation think to themselves “Maybe me?” And why not?

So what are the chances of business people winning honours and what is needed?

Well firstly, meeting the criteria for Honours themselves, as written generically for all categories. But, frankly, they are a little bit contradictory and don’t really help much. Here are the official guidelines as published in the current 5-year review document :

The current priorities have been in use for most of the reporting
period. Prime Minister Theresa May made clear that she would like the
system especially to honour those who:

create jobs and economic activity across the country, and support a
global, outward-looking Britain
support children and young people to achieve their potential, whatever
their background;
aid social mobility, enhancing life opportunities and removing barriers
to success;

give their time to improve their local community; and work to tackle discrimination in all its forms

She reaffirmed that honours should be awarded on ‘merit first’ – those who give service above and beyond – and not to those who are just doing their job. She would like to see representation from the length and breadth of the UK.

The Prime Minister has been particularly concerned to recognise activity to support diversity and social mobility. She also wants to recognise people promoting job creation and economic growth in a post-Brexit UK.

In italics, we pick out the phrases which seem to us to be contradictory. The Government’s #1 stated goal is to reward those who create jobs and economic activity in a post-Brexit UK, however this has to be done in a “merit first” manner ie “not to those who are just doing their job”. The “merit-first” principle works very well for charity, voluntary, community work, but for life as business leaders, the job is – by definition – to create jobs and economic activity. So entrepreneurs are rewarded for job creation, but not if it is their main job?

Secondly, then, let’s look at the number of awards which are granted for the various categories which the Government reports .

Honours Allocations

The Economy sub-committee is responsible for business-related nominations and over the last 5 years, 12% of honours have been awarded in this category, the second most recognised subset after Community & Voluntary. So business is a good place to land an award?

Well, not really. An examination of past winners revealed that many “business” winners are British business leaders who have grown their businesses to international players (Sir Philip Green, Sir Richard Branson etc) and that many well-known domestic business leaders have not been recognised (a quick survey of the Dragon’s Den team over the years shows that only a couple have received Queen’s Honours, despite all having significant wealth and profile). International business leaders who have “increased the reputation of the UK overseas” are well-placed for awards, but for the vast majority of business owners, that isn’t the case.

So – as a business leader – what is our advice for how to win a Queen’s Honour? We suggest two routes to our clients

  1. Build in socially-focussed elements to your business. If you employ workers from disadvantaged groups, have profit-sharing or charitable elements in the business, provide free or low-cost services to community groups, then these will stand you in good stead. (In our experience, making the argument about “generating tax for the Treasury” is a difficult position to make.)
  2. If you as an entrepreneur have a personal track-record of “giving back”, that carries significant weight. Do you give money to charity? Fund raise? Act as a mentor? Give your time pro-bono to provide your expertise. These are all important factors.

In short, Queen’s Honours for entrepreneurs and business leaders are not out of reach, but far from automatic and you or your business need to demonstrate elements beyond profit to have an application which would be seriously considered.

Bayleaf honours are experts in royal recognition and can help create a compelling mbe nomination. Contact us to find out more.

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