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Accountant hits the streets to raise ME awareness

12th May 2015
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An AccountingWEB member who has drawn heavily on the community's support to get started in practice is raising money for ME as his wife suffers from the condition, by running 23 kilometers per week for 23 weeks.

Nigel Henshaw, who is completing three half marathons to raise money and awareness for ME, has been a member of the site for around 14 years.

Today [Tuesday 12 May] is ME awareness day. ME, or Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, affects 250,000 people in the UK. It makes joints and muscles ache unbearably, sleep fitful and ‘brain fog’ clouds even the smallest judgement.

It can disrupt education, make employment impossible and strain family life. People may be housebound or confined to bed for many months or years and there is no known cure. 

Nigel first went self employed as an accountant in 1998, when his friends and family started asking him to do accounts when he was working in an accounts department of a company.

At the time he had 25 clients, so bought out another firm he saw advertised on AccountingWEB's Opportunities page. He has grown since then to build up a firm with two offices and 500 clients.

He met his wife Michelle when she was 24, two years after she was diagnosed with ME. She was a medical secretary, and at first her employers were sympathetic of her deteriorating condition.

But eventually she couldn’t work at all and her condition started deteriorating, which is when Nigel decided he would cut down his hours too to look after her.

“I was working all the hours and she was stuck at home all day, it didn’t seem right we didn’t see one another and she didn’t have a life. So I cut the business right down. I kept about 120 clients that I dealt with over the years and sold the rest.

“Michelle would love to be working and doing this herself. She feels terrible she can’t contribute to society in the same way normal people do. That’s one of the most difficult things.”

Nigel kept one member of staff, and has now got a very small office. He and his staff member work from home most of the time, and support 140 clients between them. 

Eight years ago, Nigel and his wife bought a house in France for somewhere to go for weeks at a time to recuperate. They now live there full time. Nigel travels back to the UK at least four times a year and has one member of staff still based here, who meets clients face-to-face on a monthly or quarterly basis.

Cloud software helps him operate his practice from abroad. For example, he uses Dropbox to store and share files and BrightPay for payroll.

His decided to run 23 kilometres a week for 23 weeks as to raise funds and awareness for ME in a personal challenge that will lead to the Southport, Bristol and Lyon half marathons.

“Being an accountant I had to do something around numbers. Michelle has had ME for 23 years, and it’s the 23rd annual ME awareness day. Also from the 12th the 23 weeks takes us up to our 20th wedding anniversary, right to the day.”  

Nigel started fundraising last week and has already raised £1,116. The biggest support so far has come from many of his clients.

“The response from my clients has been phenomenal; the offers of support, donations, the way we have shared the page on Facebook. It’s been incredible,” he said.

“It’s quite touching really. I’ve known most of them in excess of 10 years maybe, longer some of them. A lot of my clients have come through recommendations, or know one another or are family members. It’s nice, it feels like it is a vote of confidence in what I have been doing for them the last 10-15 years. 

Nigel says he loves being in practice, and while he thoroughly enjoys numbers and accountancy, it's the clients who make the job even more wonderful: "You get to know them and their families. They are more friends to me than they are clients.”

You can donate to Nigel via his JustGiving Page online or get in touch through his Facebook page.

He’s also running a draw for a signed Liverpool FC shirt and stadium tour. To enter, email Nigel at [email protected] with which prize you would like and he will pick at random. 

Have you had experience in cutting back your practice or working through cloud or from home to look after a loved one?  

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