Fifteen years ago Michael Petherbridge was happily working in Essex when a chance meeting set his life on a new path.

He was managing the Parsonage Hotel in Theydon Bois when he befriended a couple who were staying there while their home as refurbished.

They introduced him to their son and then daughter-in-law Nicola Heard who, impressed by Michael’s people skills, offered him a job at their Surrey Quays-based estate agency Oliver Jaques .

Despite some trepidation, he decided to take the plunge, accepting a role as sales negotiator at the company’s Borough High Street office and has stuck with the company for a decade and half, working his way up to Branch Manager, a role which won saw him win in the Manager category at The Wharf Property Awards 2015 .

A year on, he is one of four individuals nominated for the Special Recognition award and the 43-year-old said the honour was the personal highlight of his career so far.

He said: “To be nominated by someone external is humbling. I came in 15 years ago knowing nothing and to be in for this has quite taken me aback.”

Professionally he said “weathering the storm” in 2008 when the sales market was “terrible” had been the company’s biggest success.

And looking to the future the father-of-one said: “The industry has stabilised over the last couple of months but I think some people are still sitting on the fence waiting to see what will happen with the EU referendum.

“If interest rates increase I think we will see more properties coming to the market.

“We are in an area that is still being developed and will change a lot over the next 15 years.”

The son of a hotelier, Michael followed him into the industry aged 17 and had never considered a career as an estate agent until he was headhunted by Nicola, who is director of Oliver Jaques.

Michael said: “I was a bit apprehensive at first but they showed me the ropes and I have never looked back. I have always been a sociable person.”

Michael, who enjoys holidaying in Devon, was first promoted in 2005 to senior negotiator, then in 2008 to sales manager before being made branch manager of the Surrey Quays and Bow Quarter offices in 2010.

He said: “I think the best philosophy is to start at the bottom, learning every aspect of a trade.

“In the office no-one is too big to do someone else’s job. This morning I was out there mopping up and always tell staff that we all work together.”

He recently moved into a three-bedroom, semi-detached home in Buckhurst Hill with his girlfriend and five-year-old son and, although he has to commute in every day, he has never regretted his decision to leave the hotel industry.

He said: “I truly enjoy every day. We work hard but also have fun and there is a brilliant vibe in the office. We are like a little family.”

The winners of The Wharf Property Awards 2016 will be announced at a glittering presentation ceremony at Building Six in The O2 on Thursday, May 19.