All members of our email list — and that’s most of you — have been sent an invitation to enter the Pool & Spa News Top 50 Builders program. If you happened to read it, you might have noticed that we made a significant change to the criteria this year. I wanted to use this opportunity to discuss that change.

For the entire decade that we’ve been publishing the list, I’ve heard similar basic feedback. First, business owners complained that ranking companies solely by revenue isn’t a true indicator of quality. They felt, quite rightly, that having their firm’s name appear on a given spot on the list implied that every company above them was better. However, in reality, all it meant was that the higher ranked businesses obtained more construction revenue.

So last year, I decided to create a new scoring system that included construction dollars as a major component, but also took many other factors into account. Our revamped program was a huge success and though we continue to fine-tune the system, everyone I spoke with was happier with our more nuanced ratings.

The other piece of feedback that I heard over the years has to do with companies that offer franchising and licensing. Many builders argued that it was inaccurate to count such firms as one entity, especially when it pertains to revenue. Through time, I’ve come to agree with them.

This year, any pool construction firm that operates as a licensee or franchisee is still welcome to apply, but only as a single company. This will create an apples-to-apples comparison that will make the Top 50 list serve as a better indicator of the qualities we’re celebrating.

This is a big change for us, and while I realize that a few highly reputable builders will be affected, I also believe that it’s the best way to improve the program.

Licensees essentially own and operate their businesses. In many cases, they have simply purchased the rights to use a name and/or marketing materials from a larger entity. They hire, manage and fire their own staffs. They select subcontractors, oversee their work and pay them. They develop customer service guidelines and decide whether that irate homeowner should have her tile redone for free. And unlike Starbucks, where the revenue from every branch flows back to Seattle, a licensee largely keeps his or her proceeds. They are business owners, and should be treated as such.

That’s not to say they can’t appear on the list. There are many individual franchisees and licensees who would not only qualify, but even place highly on the list if they applied.

So, turn on your computer and go to to fill out the form today. This is an exciting time for the Pool & Spa News Top 50 program and I look forward to reviewing the entries.