Are you doing award-worthy work? It all depends. There is a huge gap between remodeling companies that produce stunning results for clients and those that also produce stunning results for their business.

The latter is a more introspective examination that narrows the field considerably. Passing this comprehensive judgment is one reason why I think REMODELING's Big50 awards are the most important awards in the industry today.

GREAT WORK VS. GREAT MONEY I once heard the recipient of a top design award explain that he won by being the lowest bidder on a particular job, offering over-the-top design services and products, and losing $60,000 — so he could win some sacred title. Well, he won it, all right, but at what cost? If he lost money on the job, did he really come out a winner?

Profitability is a criterion that most remodeling competitions do not have. Perhaps they should.

Should a remodeler be recognized for a great project, one that provides value to the consumer, if the remodeler didn't make money on it — or possibly even lost money?

I argue that winning awards should not cost your business money. A good remodeler should be able to achieve strong results with eye-catching work and a healthy bottom line. If you can do both, you are the real winner. Producing beautiful results for a client is actually the easy part of the job. The hard part is building a successful business at the same time.

BIG50 BEAUTY A number of remodeling competitions distribute awards based on factors such as the size of the projects, the appearance of the results, and the creativity of the design solutions. Then there are the Big50 awards. I am fortunate enough to be an alumnus of this prestigious group.

When I owned my business, we used a wall in our reception area to display all of the honors the business and the employees had accumulated over time. These included project awards, design awards, awards that recognized contributions to trade associations, certificates of educational accomplishment, and certifications earned by myself and members of my team. Of all the awards I have won during my career, I most value the Big50.

Unlike project and design awards, which are determined primarily by outside appearances, the Big50 is awarded based on what is happening inside your business. Judges (editors of REMODELING magazine) spend hours researching the applicants to learn about and verify accomplishments within their business. They're not looking for the biggest companies (the name is a holdover from the award's first year), but for the best. While many remodelers have accomplishments and great stories to share, making the Big50 requires that you be profitable as well.

FUTURE ASPIRATIONS For those of you who aspire to one day join the Big50, I suggest you read through the descriptions of this year's winners. You'll find a few of the unique and varied reasons each of these companies stands out among its peers.

Excellence means doing a common thing in an uncommon way. For some, their ability to be profitable stems from the great things they have done — developing a loyal and innovative team, for instance, or operating an outstanding marketing program. For others, perhaps profitability is what facilitated their ability to do great things. Either way, these companies set positive examples for the industry to follow.

I believe that every Big50 winner, past, present, or yet to come, would agree that they view their life and their business with the following assumption: To be content with mediocrity is a tragedy. Congratulations to this year's Big50 winners, and thanks for improving our industry in your own unique way.

Shawn McCadden recently sold his Arlington, Mass.-based employee-managed design/build remodeling business. In his second career, he is director of business innovations for DreamMaker Bath & Kitchen by Worldwide;