This guy knows tools from the inside out -- literally. As a principal and vice president of Orco Construction Supply, headquartered in Livermore, Calif., Hal Look can tell you what tool you need if you visit one of his stores, but what really makes him special is how he got here.

Unlike many executives at large companies, Look didn't begin his career in business school. Instead, he started with grease under his fingernails as a bench mechanic fixing power tools. The supply house where he worked as a teenager sent him on repair calls to service broken equipment. While out on sites, he quickly noticed that many customers were often using the wrong tools for their jobs, so he started recommending the right ones. Soon, those recommendations became sales orders and with that, Look began his steady climb to the top of his industry.

He became a salesperson. Then he worked on the manufacturing side, selling for AEG and Bosch. Success there brought him back to supply houses. Before long, this one-time paid-by-the-hour bench mechanic realized he could do it all. In 1987 he opened his own supply house, Modesto Contractors Supply in Modesto, Calif. When that was a glowing success, he opened another one.

A few smart mergers later, Orco Construction Supply was born and has grown to include 20 locations in California, Arizona, and Nevada. Look is at the helm doing what he does best -- selling the right tools to pros. He doesn't have grease under his fingernails anymore, but he still knows about the tools that go out the front doors of his stores. The difference between now and his bench mechanic days? The front doors belong to him.

Are you a ToolHound? Do you know one? Contact Katy Tomasulo at 202-736-3303 or [email protected].