As often as we write in these pages about the importance of creating and following a mission statement, some of you may wonder if we in the editorial department practice what we preach. We do. Here at REMODELING, our mission is “to inform, lead, and sustain the advance of full-service remodeling companies to the highest levels of business acumen, expertise, and professionalism.” I keep a copy of those 22 words pinned to the wall next to my desk, not merely to help jog my memory (which, I'll admit, is increasingly unreliable), but to provide guidance and focus whenever a question arises about whether or not a particular story makes sense for our readers.

I raise the issue here because this month we present our annual Big50 winners and, while it is plain as day to me how this article fulfills our mission, some of you may be asking why you should be interested in reading about companies receiving an award that you're not getting.

What's in a Name? That's a fair question, but before I answer it, let's eliminate any confusion about the name. The “big” in Big50 has little to do with size. Although 17 companies in the Big50 Class of 2006 had annual revenues of more than $3 million (and 9 of those were more than $5 million), smaller companies are well represented. Twelve Big50 had revenues last year of between $1 million and $2 million and four took in less than $1 million.

More important than the size of annual volume, though, are the qualities of acumen, expertise, and professionalism toward which our mission states we are helping our readers advance. Regardless of size, each of this year's Big50 embodies these characteristics at a comparatively high level.

Three Key Qualities Take “acumen.” Often used to indicate accuracy, the term also connotes keen judgment or insight. The remodeling business requires a multitude of judgments, some with short-term consequences, but many that affect the long-term survival of the enterprise. And because few remodelers do everything right from the very beginning — in fact, many would confess that they hardly did anything right the first time — those who survive have the insight to uncover their shortcomings and correct their course. The Big50 class represents companies that have thrived in this environment. It's impossible to read about them and not come away with some insight into your own business that you otherwise would not have had.

The second characteristic is “expertise,” which we understand to mean knowledge in a particular area. As you read the brief biographies of this year's winners (the story begins on page 85), you will notice that we've grouped entries into eight categories. We do this partly out of tradition, partly for convenience, but also as a way of highlighting what each of these companies does best. Although most Big50 companies demonstrate expertise in many areas, we focus in the short space available on those practices where they clearly stand above the crowd.

The final quality is “professionalism,” which suggests methods and standards mastered after years of practice and training. All Big50 meet the minimum longevity and financial requirements, including five-year profit performance. In the selection process we also look for companies that distinguish themselves by the benefits and the work environment they provide for their employees, and by the commitment they make to industry groups and community activities. As you'll discover while reading their profiles, these are companies for which good business is not merely a discipline that has been mastered, it is a means to an end, a way to fulfill personal goals that extend beyond our ability to measure them.

Putting together this article about the industry's best remodelers is one of the most difficult and time-consuming projects we undertake. If we've done our job, reading it will take less time and will be easier. But it will be no less rewarding.

Sal Alfano
Editorial Director