I remember when I first made the decision to go to college. I was already in my 30s, working full time and taking care of my young son, but it was clear that I needed a degree to advance professionally.

This will be no problem, I thought confidently. I’m smart, hard-working and willing to put in the time. But a few months later, exhausted after my first finals, I realized the enormity of what I had taken on and looked back with embarrassment at my own hubris.

The experience of re-engineering the Pool & Spa News Top 50 Builders program was much the same.

Over the years, we’ve received complaints that ranking builders solely by revenue is a poor indicator of a company’s true standing. Pool company owners felt, quite rightly, that appearing at the 20th spot on the list implied that the 19 firms above them were somehow better.

However, in reality all it meant was that the higher ranked businesses obtained more construction revenue.

So this year I decided to create a new scoring system that would include revenue as a major component, but also take into account a number of other quality-related factors.

In developing the method behind our 2012 rankings, I turned to at least 20 builders for inspiration. Toward the end of this idea-gathering phase, I began telling the people I talked with a little about how I was planning to score the entrants, and every single one of them said, “That’s a lot to take on.”

“No problem,” I replied cheerfully. “I’m smart, hard-working and willing to put in the time.”

But now, a few months later, I look back with embarrassment at my own hubris (people never change), as well as pride in what I feel is a great accomplishment.

This was a highly ambitious, massive undertaking involving a Hanley Wood statistician, insanely complicated spreadsheets, and hundreds of hours spent on reference calls.

While there are some wrinkles in the scoring system that will need to be ironed out next year, I believe we created a relevant, objective and comprehensive way to recognize pool construction companies.

In this issue, the data is broken down into an easy-to-read series of charts and graphs that I find fascinating.  I hope you enjoy reading this issue as much as we enjoyed compiling it, and please feel free to contact me with feedback.