Each year, the Big50 selection process is both the same and different from the year before. Editors use the same set of standards and ask the same questions about best practices, trying to uncover what it is about a particular company that makes it stand out from the crowd. But each year also presents a fresh crop of companies and a different set of market conditions. In that sense, candidates are compared to one another and are graded on a curve, as it were.

The companies presented in the following pages represent the very peak of that curve. In a climate in which survival is considered an achievement, they have somehow managed to thrive.

Every year, REMODELING editors single out for the Big50 award companies that demonstrate broad expertise, sound business judgment, and a high degree of professionalism. Big50 winners now number more than 1,800.

Again this year we have partnered with GuildQuality, a customer-satisfaction polling company, to identify candidates for the Service Excellence Award. Based on the results of customer surveys, the award recognizes incoming Big50 winners who consistently deliver an exceptional customer experience.

Click here to view the class of 2011.