Distinctive Design Remodeling (DDR) offers clients three products: additions, basements, and garages. No kitchens or baths, unless they’re a part of that addition. And when the company’s salespeople—all of them designers/estimators—call on prospects, their goal is a signed contract that night.

Owner Jonathan Penn says that DDR, a company he bought in 2010, was “a totally different ballgame from what [he] was used to.” For years he worked as general manager at one of the largest replacement contracting companies in Lexington, specializing in sunrooms and windows.

That gave him an appreciation for the quality of the leads in design/build. The fact that most come from Angie’s List, or are repeat/referral is a huge relief compared with all that goes into fielding a canvassing operation, with its high turnover of personnel and prospects whose interest in the product may well prove temporary. Penn describes the people his company calls on as “extremely interested.”

Still, the efficiencies that are part of everyday business in the replacement world are now part of the way that this design/build company operates. For instance, DDR can complete an addition in six or seven weeks after breaking ground, and can do basements and garages in substantially less time. The key is “not starting too many jobs at once and keeping crews on the jobs. I look at it like an assembly line.” That has allowed Penn to more than triple his sales during the last three years.  


  • Distinctive Design Remodeling employs the trades it needs to get jobs built on its strict schedules. With trade contractors in ever-greater demand as the economy picks up, a year and a half ago Penn went ahead and hired employees to do his foundation work. “That way I’m not waiting around,” he says. “I’m not fourth or fifth on someone’s list.” Waiting for trade contractors to be available will hold you up quicker than anything, he says.
  • DDR retains a core group of 12 subcontractors and strives “to keep them busy 365 days a year,” Penn says. “I learned that in replacement contracting—and it’s been very valuable to me over the years” in terms of the company’s ability to turn a job in half the time or less than it would take a competitor.
  • Penn re-measures every job himself after it’s sold. This way, new customers get to meet the company owner. In addition, he says, “I want to know what was sold and to make sure that everybody understands exactly what is in the contract.”