I know that a few H1B visa holders are intending to start their own software consulting firms once they get their green cards. This small case study might be helpful to those folks. Case Study Building a Business With Market Bites August 30, 2005; Page B2 THE PROBLEM: An immigrant attempts to create a consulting business from a standstill. Kaz Kihara came to the U.S. from Japan as a young man to go to college. His father, who worked for a Japanese subsidiary of an American company near Tokyo all his adult life, was dubious. "I didn't know what I wanted to do," admits the younger Mr. Kihara. He started at the University of Colorado, which he picked from a brochure. He discovered his language limitations there when, at a fast-food window, he couldn't make anyone understand the word "hamburger" while drivers stacked up behind him. He transferred to the University of California, Santa Barbara, thinking he might fit in better. Fresh from college, Mr. Kihara worked for a small CPA firm in Torrance, Calif., which had some Japanese clients. Fluent in Japanese and with an affinity for software, he began doing side jobs for the CPA firm's clients. By 1999, the peak of the dot-com boom, he observed a friend who'd started a prosperous consulting firm. "Why not go for it myself?" he thought. But with few contacts, how to begin? THE SOLUTION: He systematically approached definable subsets of the marketplace. Starting from a room rented from his former employer, he offered accounting and computer-information technology consulting. He called it Premier Data Technology Inc., and soon became a reseller for Microsoft Great Plains unit software. His first clients were some small companies with ties to Japan. "The Japanese community [in Torrance] was very tight," he says. A bigger break came when he heard that a Japanese subsidiary in the U.S. was so unhappy with a project overseen by a big U.S. consulting firm that it had pulled the plug. Mr. Kihara stepped in to finish the job. He was now hiring employees, and by 2000, as other new consulting firms were closing up amid the dot-com bust, he found more and more Japanese branches, or U.S. headquarters that were interested in his work. Through projects on the West Coast, he found a Japanese manufacturing subsidiary in Ohio, an auto-parts supplier. "Their employees speak English, but they have to report financial statements in Japanese," he says. "No one is taking care of that." He began to target companies with similar currency and language challenges and found new clients, mostly manufacturers. This year, a former employee opened a law practice in Las Vegas, and called Mr. Kihara. "You have to come out here," he says. A building boom was under way, and construction companies needed accounting software like everyone else. With that, Mr. Kihara opened his Las Vegas office, and hired a sales force there to target Nevada construction companies. "The Japanese community is nonexistent here," he says, but he feels sufficiently established to branch out anew. Today, at age 35, he was named to Microsoft's President's Club, ranking about 180 of about 4,000 Microsoft resellers. Revenue last year was $1.8 million. "The toughest thing," he says, "is always adapting." THE LESSON: Break the market into bite-size pieces to find a focus.