ENTREPENEUR Matt Riley is returning to Britain’s most infamous boardroom as one of Lord Sugar’s trusted business advisers for the grand finale of the BBC’s The Apprentice.
The 38-year-old rejoins Lord Sugar as one of four guest interviewers, drafted in to grill this year’s candidates on their own entrepreneurial ideas and business plans.
In what has been dubbed one of the most closely contested series ever, the four finalists will face the ultimate interrogation as they endure the dreaded interview stage where they will be cross-examined by Lord Sugar’s most formidable associates.
The successful candidate and their winning business idea will go into partnership with Lord Sugar, receiving investment worth £250,000.
Embarking on his second spell alongside Lord Sugar, Mr Riley, the chief executive officer and founder of Nelson-based Daisy Group, admits that the calibre of this year’s candidates was much higher than last year.
And his assessment on this year’s Apprentice hopefuls coincides with the announcement that his own company is recruiting for apprentices of its own, with the launch of Daisy Group’s Apprentice Scheme.
Mr Riley said: “The calibre of candidates was genuinely much higher and I think they have really learnt from last year’s programme. They presented business plans that were well thought through and generally there was a much higher standard on show.
“As we enter a double dip recession, it is more important than ever that people display an entrepreneurial spirit and it is encouraging that we have young business people out there who have the ideas and drive to build their own success.”
Mr Riley, who began his own career on a YTS apprentice scheme in 1990, now leads the successful Daisy Group, which provides technology and communications to more than 75,000 business customers and employs 1,500 people.
Backing the government’s new £80m ‘StartUp Loan’ scheme for business support, Mr Riley is also playing his own part.
He said: “I started my own company over a decade ago from nothing and in that space of time have taken Daisy from my garage to having 1,500 employees.
“For every business that we can encourage and support, there is the potential for employment. If you can employ an extra person, just one, that’s a success for the UK and our economy.
The Apprentice final airs on Sunday at 8.30pm on BBC One.