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Who is the Real Winner of The Apprentice 2017?

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What if The Apprentice (UK) was actually a credit based show rather than a strategy play? Below, Cato Syverson, CEO of Creditsafe, discusses for Finance Monthly the ‘real winner of the show’, if the win depended solely on the contestants’ past dues, credit history and debt.

This year’s series of the popular television show, The Apprentice is now in full swing. The reality TV show – now in its thirteenth series – sees 18 hopeful businessmen and women compete to become Lord Alan Sugar’s latest business partner, with the eventual winner scooping a £250,000 investment into their proposed business venture. But how does Lord Sugar whittle the 18 potential candidates down to one? What is he looking for in a business partner? By the looks of the latest series, it’s not their business or credit history.

Using Creditsafe data, we have analysed who the real winner of the Apprentice 2017 should be and who the riskiest investment would be for Lord Sugar, based purely on the contestants’ financial and business history, past success and acumen. We devised a simple scoring model to rank the candidates, considering factors such as the profitability of current businesses they own, credit ratings and whether they’ve received any County Court Judgments (CCJs).

The results indicate that interestingly, week three casualty Elliot Van Emden was the safest bet for Lord Sugar and should have been the real winner of this year’s series. With a credit rating of 95, a net worth of £27,006 and no CCJs to his name, Elliot was a strong contender and the least risky candidate in this year’s competition.

Most surprisingly, Elizabeth McKenna, one of this year’s most talked about and controversial candidates, is now the least risky candidate for Lord Sugar to enter into business with. Elizabeth has a net worth of £36,940, no CCJs and five current business appointments making her a solid choice, even though the florist has irritated a number of candidates on the show. Luckily, this week, she managed to dodge being firing by Lord Sugar when she was brought back into the boardroom as sub-team leader. At the other end of the spectrum, Bushra Shaikh has two dissolved companies under her belt, a very low credit score of 49 and one CCJ to her name, making her the least advisable selection for Lord Sugar.

While there isn’t a strict set of rules about choosing a business partner, there are warning signs to be aware of when faced with this decision: For example, if a director has any previous failures buried in their business history. Our data shows that if a director has been involved in a company that has failed in the last three years, they are nine times more likely to fail again compared to a director who has never been involved with a business collapse.

In addition, it is wise to check whether candidates have links to any businesses with low credit scores. Many businesses are owned by or have links with other companies, and how they’re performing financially can have a knock-on effect. This means it’s sensible to look at all linked companies credit reports to check you won’t be impacted by a low credit score or poor payment history of another business in the future.

We have a few more weeks to wait and see who Lord Sugar chooses as his next business partner, but it will be interesting to see if he takes a risk or makes a safe bet. Who you enter business with can have a significant impact on both your financial performance and reputation, and therefore doing your homework on potential candidates is critical for success.

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