Sitting on the judging panel of New Zealand's prestigious business awards gives Ross Buckley a chance to hear success stories from some of the country's most talented business leaders.

The executive chairman of KPMG New Zealand is one of nine judges on the main panel for this year's New Zealand International Business Awards (NZIBA), run by New Zealand Trade and Enterprise (NZTE).

The awards attracted a record number of entries this year, and the finalists will be announced on October 10.

"I like to see people putting their hand up to have their success recognised. It's really motivating and exciting to see the nominations come through," said Mr Buckley.


He said these awards help encourage business leaders to overcome a false sense of humility and share their success stories with their peers.

"Unfortunately tall poppy syndrome is still alive in New Zealand, which is a shame because it restricts a lot of people from getting external recognition," Mr Buckley said.

"There are too many great businesses and success stories below the radar that don't get a profile even though they are very successful at what they do."

He said a positive public profile is important for companies, especially when it comes to raising capital to fund offshore expansion.

This year marks the 50th anniversary of the NZIBA, which celebrate the success of New Zealand businesses on the world stage.

The judges for the awards get a preview of all finalists success stories - each finalist gives the judging panel a short presentation on their business, which is followed by a question and answer session.

As well as an overall supreme winner, nine awards are given for the categories which include Excellence in Leadership. This is awarded to an outstanding leadership team who have been instrumental in shaping their international strategy.

KPMG is the sponsor supporting this award category, and Mr Buckley said it will be awarded to a leadership team that successfully planned and achieved growth internationally.


He said he'll be looking for a leadership team that not only performs well, has a clear purpose and vision, but also has a good culture of innovation without a fear of failure.

"It's really important for organisations to embed an innovation culture and part of that is being able to try new things and encourage people to be innovative. Failing is not a bad thing, at least you tried and you have learned from it," said Mr Buckley.

He said successful leadership teams have combined skills and values that cover intellectual, emotional, cultural and digital intelligence.

Intellectual intelligence is about being good at your chosen field of expertise, while emotional intelligence is about working well with others in a team, being open to feedback and having great self-awareness.

"If you have good emotional intelligence, you're more aware of what's happening around you and therefore you make good judgement calls. You are going to be successful as an individual and as a combined team," Mr Buckley said.

New Zealand companies have sometimes been criticised for not knowing enough about markets they are entering, and Mr Buckley describes cultural intelligence as knowledge about customs and traditions and ways of doing business in offshore markets.

We operate in a world without boundaries and even the New Zealand marketplace is multicultural therefore we need that cultural intelligence about the markets we are going into.

"We operate in a world without boundaries and even the New Zealand marketplace is multicultural therefore we need that cultural intelligence about the markets we are going into," he said.

And Mr Buckley adds the fourth skillset of digital intelligence is a must on any leadership team. He said disruption to existing business models is due to the impact of digital developments - with the likes of Uber, Airbnb and giant online retailers creating successful businesses with few tangible assets.

"Digital is the enabler so if you're not up to speed with digital you're going to be at a disadvantage to your competitors," he said.

"The speed of change is happening so quickly that if you have a gap in digital capability, then you've got to look at getting external help in some way till you can build or recruit your own capability."

Mr Buckley said a successful leadership team would continually evaluate its combined skillsets and look for gaps to fill, either by up skilling existing team members, getting external advice or recruiting.

Then there are the curve balls that every leadership team is thrown from time to time. Companies approaching the judging panel for the awards will need to be able to answer questions about an unexpected event or scenario and how they dealt with it.

"Leadership teams need to be agile and make sure they are planning for unexpected scenarios, not just operating with their fingers crossed; because in today's world they face a lot of volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity," said Mr Buckley.

New Zealand International Business Awards

Many of New Zealand's most iconic companies have been celebrated in the awards hall of fame over the past 50 years, including Tonka, Tip Top and the Apple and Pear Marketing Board (now ENZA).

To celebrate 50 years of business icons, a special exhibition has been created that will be on display at the awards ceremony in November.

ANZ has been the awards strategic partner since 2009. The awards other sponsors are KPMG, MFAT, Callaghan Innovation, Kotahi, MBIE, Te Puni Kōkiri and Treasury.

The awards finalists will be announced on October 10. To find out more about the awards visit