Climbing some of the world's most intimidating mountains is not too different to the challenge of stepping out and starting a new business, says entrepreneur Mark Bryan.
Prior to launching his veterinary business VetSouth - an 85-strong team operating in Southland - Bryan spent years tackling mountains all over the world, including four expeditions to the Himalayas.
"I reckon the qualities that make an entrepreneur fit in with that of a mountaineer," he said.
"It's the desire to do something new. Once you've finished one summit, you think 'that was great', then you want to move on to something else."
Climbers and entrepreneurs both needed to know how to persevere, but to also to recognise when to turn back in times of danger, he said.
Bryan came to New Zealand from Scotland in the 1980s as a climber and fell in love with the South Island because it "ticked all the boxes". He returned in 1995 and has never left.
VetSouth, which he founded in 2005, provides veterinary services, a field research group, specialist consultancy and products to farmers and pet owners in New Zealand's deep south.
Bryan is one of 18 business leaders shortlisted for this year's Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year Awards.
He and the other entrepreneurs gathered in a highrise building in downtown Auckland yesterday to face the judging panel.
Lester Binns, founder of MyTax.co.nz, said entrepreneurs were often misunderstood as being people who took excessive risk.
"But people need to understand that starting a business and taking risk is not as scary as it sounds because we take calculated risks," he said.
Binns started MyTax.co.nz in 2008 and the Nelson-based online tax refund service now has more than 200,000 clients.
Binns named Kiwi scientist Sir Ray Avery as his greatest inspiration.
Another entrepreneur on this year's shortlist is the founder of Heilala Vanilla, Jennifer Boggiss.
Heilala Vanilla grows and processes a range of 100 per cent pure vanilla products grown in Tonga and its export markets include Australia, Japan, Brazil and USA.
Boggiss said she fell in love with Tonga about 10 years ago and decided to leave her career as an accountant to start her own business growing vanilla beans.
She has her own plantation in Tonga - employing about 30 local workers - which would this year produce about five tons of dried vanilla beans to be brought back to New Zealand.
Her dream was to boost the profile of Tonga around the world, at the same time as becoming a globally recognised premium vanilla brand.
"I aspire to be something for the Tongan people, that they can see me as someone that's involved to take their country and their story to the world.
"I want to make Heilala Vanilla to Tonga what Fiji Water was to Fiji," she said.
Other entrepreneurs who came together for today's judging include John Penno, the head of Synlait Milk; Sam Minnée from SilverStripe; Murray Holdaway from Vista Entertainment Solutions; and Dr. Hartley Atkinson from AFT Pharmaceuticals.
Judges will whittle the shortlist down to five category winners, due to be announced on Friday, and the overall winner will be named on October 17.
Last year's winner was Sky TV founder Craig Heatley, who went on to represent New Zealand at the World Entrepreneur of the Year Awards in Monaco earlier this year.