Twenty-five years ago, when the annual selection of the Big50 began, the goal was to identify the 50 U.S. cities where the most remodeling activity was taking place, then find the largest remodeling company in each city. Simple.

Too simple, in fact. The assumption was that big companies must be doing something right, and that big means better. But by that criterion, year two would have listed the same 50 remodeling companies. So the editors switched from looking for the biggest to looking for the best, regardless of size.

New criteria included standards of financial performance that focused less on total revenue and more on net profit. Longevity also became important — because rapid growth, common for startup companies, can also lead to equally rapid decline, the Big50 need to demonstrate staying power. Over time, other elements entered into the equation, so that today, individuals and their companies are evaluated for leadership, service to the industry, service to the local community, and how well they treat employees and trade partners. And last year, we partnered with GuildQuality to survey candidates’ customers and present the Remodeling Service Excellence Award to Big50 companies that consistently deliver exceptional customer service.

Times have changed. Today’s remodeling environment bears little resemblance to that of 1986. But one thing hasn’t changed: The Big50 still represent the very best that the industry has to offer. Congratulations.