WALNUT CREEK – Jim Vivrette developed an early love for building by working alongside his father, but he never expected it to lead to a professional career. “When I was a boy, my dad and I began building a house up in the Sierras,” he remembers. “I loved working with him and having the opportunity to learn all the different trades. Over time, building became my hobby, but I never planned on doing it for a living.”
After graduating from UC Berkeley with a degree in economics, Jim started doing financial planning and eventually worked his way up to a vice president position at a San Francisco branch of Bank of America. However, when he found himself unexpectedly out of work, he took the opportunity to “remodel” his professional direction. “In 1986, Bank of America laid off 27,000 people, and I was one of them,” he explains. “At that point, I decided to take my avocation of building and make it my profession. I started a remodeling company that consisted of just me and my wife, Sylvia. Over the next 30 years, we grew to 23 employees and are still going strong today.”
Today, as owner of Altera Design & Remodeling, Inc., Jim says his favorite part of his job is the interpersonal interaction. “To me, it’s all about working with people: clients, employees, subcontractors, suppliers—everybody. Since our company handles everything from design to construction, it requires the involvement of many different people, so we try to create a great experience for everyone involved.”
A resident of Orinda, Jim prefers to spend the bulk of his free time outdoors. “I love to be outside, whether it’s hiking, biking, snow skiing or water skiing,” he affirms. “In particular, I love going up to the Sierras, which I’ve been doing since I was a kid.” When he’s not communing with nature, Jim enjoys reading and spending time with family, including his and Sylvia’s two grown sons, Jason and Brian, and two grandchildren.
In regard to his professional career, Jim espouses the importance of integrity. “I’ve always felt it’s important to go to bed each night with a clear conscience,” he says. “That’s why I’m all about doing the right thing, treating people properly and being a very ethical company. Those values work, and they’ve made it possible to create a wonderful company with tremendous employees. At this point, we’ve been able to help thousands of homeowners, which allows me to sleep soundly with a great sense of pride and accomplishment.”
When asked what his life might look like if he were to retire tomorrow, Jim says it wouldn’t be much different. “I don’t foresee any radical changes—I’m very comfortable with the way my life is now. I would just spend more time being outdoors with my wife and family.”