Andrew Barnes, Perpetual Guardian
In 1997, Apple's iconic 'Think Different' ad campaign toasted those who challenge the status quo.
"Here's to the crazy ones," the ad started.
"The rebels, the troublemakers, the ones who see things differently. While some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius. Because the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world are the ones that do."
There could, perhaps, be no better summary of Andrew Barnes over the last year. The Perpetual Guardian chief executive pushed his way into the public consciousness when he questioned the entire notion of the 9-5 work week by giving his entire team of over 200 staff the opportunity to shift to a four-day week.
It was rebellious, crazy and little genius. And it sparked not a national but an international debate about the way we work and the way we measure productivity.
His local experiment, which was backed by academic research, sparked businesses around the world into trying something similar in their businesses.
But he's not done yet. He's also taking aim at the gig economy by asking serious questions about the way in which it strips away at workers' rights that were centuries in the making.
The verdict is still out on whether Barnes' efforts will ultimately change the world.
Whichever way it goes, Barnes looks likely to continue to 'think different'.
Caroline Rawlinson, Trade Me
Trade Me's finances have come under intense scrutiny in recent months — and suitors looking to takeover the online marketplace were obviously impressed.
Chief financial officer of the NZX-listed company, Caroline Rawlinson, has spent more than two years keeping Trade Me's balance sheet in shape.
This year the 35-year-old has fronted a number of large projects at the company, including "Trade Me in 10 years", a three-month long look at global disruption and how Trade Me is positioned to combat the effect off global tech giants.
"We went through a strategic review with our board looking at large global trends that have the potential to disrupt our business and model — everything from what the Google's, Facebook's and Amazon's of the world are doing and how they could impact here," Rawlinson said.
"We work in a really interesting part of the sector where technology is moving so rapidly," she said.
"It was a big look at macro trends and bringing that back to what we need to be doing today as an organisation to equip ourselves for that."
Trade Me is moving to cloud-based technologies such as image recognition in its apps to streamline the listing process and using artificial intelligence in its property business to produce estimates of home values.
British private equity player is in the box seat to buy Trade Me with a $6.45 per share offer seeing its board agree to a scheme of arrangement. A shareholder vote is not scheduled until April, and the Overseas Investment Office typically takes two to three months to make a decision following investor approval.
Andy Borland, Scales Corporation
Scales Corporation has flourished under the stewardship of Andy Borland, an unassuming former banker from Canterbury.
The agri-business company has been an outstanding performer since listing on the NZX in 2014 when it had a market value of $224 million.
The company, which runs horticulture, logistics and food ingredients divisions, is now worth more than $600m and pays an attractive dividend to its shareholders.
Borland joined Scales back in 2007 as chief executive when the company was part of the late Allan Hubbard's empire in South Canterbury. Before then he spent 17 years at Westpac in a range of roles including head of corporate business for New Zealand.
In 2011 Borland became managing director of Scales after it was bought by Direct Capital, ACC and the New Zealand Superannuation Fund. Those investors originally retained a 20 per cent stake following the share market listing, which is viewed by many as a blueprint for successful private equity sell downs.
But it's Borland who has steered the company on its growth path, most recently selling non-core assets and building a war chest for future acquisitions.
He may be a quiet achiever who goes about business without fuss or fanfare, but he's also passionate about producing quality, sustainable products for the world's export markets.
"Scales operates all its businesses like we are just starting out. We need to leave our businesses better for the next generation of managers and owners," he says.
Borland's other roles include chairing Akaroa Salmon, and directorships of Pipfruit New Zealand Incorporated and Rabobank Australia.
Geoff Babidge, a2 Milk
Geoff Babidge, who headed up the hugely successful a2 Milk until earlier this year, is widely credited for making company what it is today.
Aussie upstart came to the position in 2010 after pestering then chairman Cliff Cook, who himself had just rescued the company from near insolvency. When Cook relented, a2 Milk shares were trading at just 9 cents a piece.
This year, the stock peaked at $14.10. A2 Milk is now one of New Zealand's biggest company by market capitalisation.
Babidge shifted the company's focus from intellectual property to becoming a marketer of milk. In a short space of time, a2 Milk gained 10 per cent of the Australian fresh milk market and 32 per cent of the Australian infant formula market.
The company's success in Australia has acted as a springboard for its foray into China, in part driven by astute management of the so called "daigou" or grey market channels.
A2 Milk now has 5.6 per cent of the Chinese infant formula market - the world's biggest and fastest growing. Towards the end of his tenure, a2 signed a strategic partnership with the dairy giant Fonterra, thereby ending years of enmity between the two. Babidge has established a beachhead in America, starting first with fresh milk.
Babidge is a tireless promoter of the a2 story, which contends that milk containing just the a2 beta protein can benefit carry health benefits compared with standard milk, which has both the a1 and a2 beta proteins. Current chief executive and managing director, Jayne Hrdlicka, took over the reins in August.
Russel Creedy, Restaurant Brands
Russel Creedy has certainly delivered great returns for investors.
In fact shares in Restaurant Brands – which runs KFC, Carl's jnr and Pizza Hut franchises - are worth about 900 per cent more now than they were when Creedy took over as chief executive in 2007.
As well as getting the New Zealand business back in shape Creedy has, in the past year, led a successful expansion into Australia and Hawaii.
The international moves have been so successful they probably helped attract Mexican private equity fund Finaccess Capital's $881.5m offer for three-quarter stake of the company.
The $9.45 indicative offer in October was a 24 per cent premium to where the shares traded before the deal was announced and looks set to succeed.
South African by birth; Creedy and his family have been in New Zealand for almost 25 years. Leaving to escape the violence and political unrest they witnessed, he and his wife Linda arrived with two young children, no jobs or local contacts. They were industrial chemists and it was tough finding jobs.
Creedy ended up working as the distribution operations manager for Linfox Logistics for seven years before being hired by Restaurant Brands as the supply chain manager in 2001.