Robin Hutson, founder of the Pig brand of hotels, has been awarded an honorary Doctor of Business degree from Southampton Solent University, in recognition of his contribution to the hospitality industry.
On being presented with the award, Hutson, who is chief executive and chairman of Lime Wood Group and Home Grown Hotels, said he was "surprised, proud and delighted in equal measures".
The honorary degree is the latest accolade to be bestowed upon Hutson during the past 12 months, having received the Outstanding Contribution award at the Hotel Cateys in November 2014 and the Lifetime Achievement award from the AA last month.
Hutson, The Caterer's 2003 Hotelier of the Year, is regarded as one of the UK's most innovative and entrepreneurial operators, with a career spanning more than 40 years. Having created the Hotel du Vin brand with Gerard Basset, which they sold in 2004 for £66m, he has since gone on to open Lime Wood and the Pig group of hotels, which now number four properties with a fourth being developed in Devon.
Hutson told his fellow graduates that it was great to be among the next generation of business leaders and entrepreneurs. "My life in business has been 40 years of on the job learning, never really having had the benefit of understanding the theory of what I was doing. Luckily I had the privilege of working for and alongside some truly inspirational and creative individuals; it's been their patience and generosity of time and mentoring that has formed my learning curriculum."
He explained that the most rewarding part of his career has been in developing the teams throughout his various businesses. "Our current hotel company turns over around £25m and employs over 500, many of them quite young, in the early stages of their careers, like you. Some are graduates some are not; some are committed to hospitality careers, others are just passing through. I can honestly say that the element of my job that I find the most rewarding, possibly drawing from the early stages of my career, is the mentoring and development of these clever, passionate hard-working youngsters.
He went on to add: "I have always believed that the barriers to business success are not the often-given reasons of market conditions, EU regulations, a lack of funding even; it's much more likely to be the inability to build the right team around you. By investing our time and money in our young team we are ensuring that we have the depth of squad of home grown talent to fuel our ambitious business growth plans for years to come."
In giving advice to new graduates, Hutson said: "I don't know who said ‘find a job you love and you'll never do a day's work in your life' but that pretty much describes how I feel about my life in hospitality and business."