SEPTEMBER 21, 2016
We’ve all heard them – those stories about the humble beginnings of tech giants and Fortune 500 companies.
Apple started in a garage.
Facebook was created in a dorm room.
Kentucky Fried Chicken started as a roadside restaurant, where Colonel Harland Sanders scratched a list of his eleven secret herbs and spices on the back of his kitchen door.
And Alten Construction began in a basement.
Twenty-one years ago, Bob Alten put together the company’s first bid in that basement. The project? Renovating twenty-three bathrooms for Laney & Merritt Colleges in Oakland, California.
Because public entities require performance bonds, Bob and his wife, Shannon, put up their home and all their personal property—even their wedding rings—to obtain their first bond.
“To make that step, you really have to put your guts out there,” Bob said, who had a two-year-old son when he and Shannon put up their home. Several years later, they had another son. Shannon gave birth on a Monday and was back in the office for payroll on Thursday with their new baby boy.
Turns out, their hard work and risk taking were worth it. They got that first project and many more after it. Today, just twenty-one years after its founding, San Francisco Bay Area-based Alten Construction employs more than 100 people and has annual revenues of more than $75 million.
Bob and Shannon first met when they were teenagers at San Marin High School. She asked Bob to her senior prom, and they have been together ever since, marrying right out of college in 1987 and settling in Colorado where Bob went to school for engineering and architecture. When the economy took a surprising down turn that same year, Shannon, who earned her degree in business, worked for the Littleton County Clerk and Bob worked as a draftsman.
“Those were trying times. We ate a lot of soup and bread,” Shannon said.
When they moved back to California in the early 1990’s, Bob worked at a design-build company and Shannon worked at a worldwide computer company.
“My work at the computer company was the perfect training ground for starting a business,” Shannon said. “With that and my business degree and Bob with the construction side, it was the perfect combo. We hit the ground running.”
Since the beginning, many Alten Construction projects have been public education buildings, from elementary schools to colleges.
“The school projects shape the future,” Bob said. “We’ve seen firsthand what a brand new school or even a playground does for kids. The school environment is so important. It has a huge impact, and it’s great to be a part of.”
In addition building better schools, Bob and Shannon volunteer in their community. From 1997 to 2009, Bob coached a little league baseball team and Pop Warner football, and Shannon chaired fundraising committees at her sons’ schools from 1997 to 2015.
Today, Bob and Shannon are working in roles at Alten that have evolved along with the business. Bob focuses on operations and leadership, and Shannon focuses on finance, accounting and systems. Bob counts the longevity of employees as one of the company’s biggest accomplishments.
“Many of our people have been with us a long time,” Bob said. “This company would not be here without them. This is their company. We’ve had employees get married, buy houses and start families. We always love seeing and hearing about their personal successes.”
The future of Alten Construction includes current employees moving into higher positions and the company continuing to recruit and train new employees.
“We’re a growing company,” Bob said. “But our reputation for quality and high standards in the industry will stay the same. We are builders, and we really do take pride in what we build. Love what you do, and you will be successful.”