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An open letter to The Apprentice winner Leah Totton

The Apprentice winner Leah Totton certainly has her masterplan all worked out – but we have an important business tip to impress upon the Northern Irish entrepreneur.

Hi Leah. If you read this letter to the end, you'll find we have a very practical, business-related reason for getting in touch. But first things first, congratulations are most certainly in order. It's not often that "academic types" make a big impression on The Apprentice, but your journey from bright-eyed-but-apprehensive doctor to extremely credible and talented businesswoman was truly something to behold.

This year's competition was one of the toughest and most competitive in the show's history - and it was no mean feat to overcome the fierce Luisa Zissman in the final. Luisa's power of personality, combined with the fact that she already has an established cupcake business, made her a formidable candidate for Lord Sugar's investment - which of course makes your victory all the more remarkable.

Nailing the numbers

One area where you edged Luisa was in giving a compelling and meticulous vision of how your business is going to make money. True, you had to put up with a few pokes from Dara O'Briain when the show's mischievous editors showed you reeling off your forecasts at a hundred miles an hour - but as you suggested, it's better to demonstrate that you've given your projections close consideration than leave people wondering if you're pulling figures out the air (take note Francesca "5 million pounds" MacDuff-Varley). Claude Littner, who has a reputation for taking no prisoners, was clearly impressed - and so were we.

It's better to demonstrate that you've given your projections close consideration than leave people wondering if you're pulling figures out the air

It's clear that having a realistic, achievable idea about the money  coming in and going out is crucial to the long term success of any business.In short, you want the "in" figure to be as high as possible and the "out" figure to be as low as possible, right? Well, we can't help with the first bit - we'll leave the injections and cosmetics in your expert hands - but allow me to offer you our far less glamorous brand of expertise in helping with the latter.

Here goes. You briefly mentioned to Claude that electricity will be one of your major costs. Well, you may or may not know this but electricity (and gas for that matter) is extremely expensive when you're new to a business property - that is, on the day you take ownership. This is because energy companies compensate for the risk involved in supplying gas and electricity to an unknown business customer. Your action is required to get you on less expensive rates - but because the price is so high in the first place, many business owners make the mistake of accepting a quote that, although cheaper, is not as cheap as it could or should be.

Your new employee

If you put the task in our hands instead, we'll use our experience and expertise to get you on the best contract we can find - and once you're with us we'll do everything we can to keep you on the best rates possible for future contracts. A direct relationship with your energy supplier, unfortunately, does not offer you the same assurance.

Excuse the directness of our approach, Leah, but we figure that anyone starting out in business needs all the help they can get - and electricity isn't the only indirect cost we can help you minimise. Ultimately, we'll help you save two of the most crucial commodities in business - time and money - and contribute, in some small way, to making your projections become a reality.

Good luck in your new venture - as small business champions we wish you all the success in the world.