Mark Robert Halper

This month, as has been the case each spring since 1986, REMODELING is proud to invite another outstanding group of remodelers to join the ranks of the Big 50. I joined the magazine last May, after all selections had been made, so this is the first opportunity I've had to participate in the Big 50 process from start to finish. It's quite an undertaking, and judging from the number of calls I get asking about it, I thought it might be helpful to describe how each year's Big 50 Class comes to be.

The first thing to understand is that the name "Big 50" is something of a misnomer. Company size has nothing to do with it. The individuals selected each year all run successful companies that set the standard for excellence, leadership, professionalism, and integrity, regardless of company size.

Putting together the Big 50 is a labor of love that begins in the fall when REMODELING publishes the first call for nominations for the following year's class. Candidate suggestions come from all over -- industry consultants, the national and local leadership of NARI and the NAHB Remodelors Council -- but candidates can also nominate themselves. All that's required is to fill out a standard "survey" that asks candidates to explain what distinguishes their firm from other quality companies and how their systems or practices are innovative or exemplary.

To complete the list, we add the names of strong candidates from previous years. Now the work of narrowing the field begins in earnest. Editors interview candidates at length, and often talk with key people at their companies, to find out if the candidates measure up to certain financial benchmarks and to flesh out the material submitted on the survey.

The Big 50 Class of 2002 will be officially recognized in late May at the Remodeling Leadership Conference. This two-day series of seminars is open to the public and is highlighted by the Big 50 awards banquet. Over the years, the Big 50 has become a tightly knit community of more than 1,000 remodelers, and for many the Leadership Conference is an opportunity to catch up with "classmates" and rekindle old friendships. In fact, one of the most valuable benefits of selection is the opportunity to build relationships with other Big 50 winners, many of whom keep in touch with one another throughout the year.

Although the winners have worked years for this achievement, the Big 50 is more of a beginning than an ending. Even before the Big 50 had their own pages in the magazine, we leaned heavily on them throughout the year as sounding boards for story ideas and for examples of best practices. Most of the Big 50 are happy to oblige. And for that, we are all grateful.

Sal Alfano, Editor-in-Chief