Derek Sivers

The Obsolete Employee - by Michael Russer

The Obsolete Employee - by Michael Russer

ISBN: 0966248465
Date read: 2007-10-01
How strongly I recommend it: 3/10
(See my list of 320+ books, for more.)

Go to the Amazon page for details and reviews.

How to run a company without employees, but with a loose network of work-from-home freelance agents. Very instructive, but also good perspective like how until the industrial revolution, there were no employees: everyone was freelance.

my notes

Business owners will always have issues with their support staff as long as they don't feel truly fulfilled by their work, no matter what perks the employer gives them.

You (the business owner) are working for the person (employee) who asks, "What can you do for me today?"

A team full of people resenting the team leader is no team at all.

Have formal written business processes for every signifiant job function. Outsource it to a consultant who specializes in creating and maintaining written business processes.

Talent on demand rather than having to pay for employees all the time, whether you need them or not.

You are hiring an independent contractor who is an expert at what they do (rather than a jack of all trades).

Make sure you hire specialists and avoid those that offer many different types of services.

StaffCentrix / : training military spouses.
International Virtual Assistants Association :
Team Double-Click = the author's portal for resources

List several projects that, if completed, would make a big impact on your business.

Legal resources who specialize in filing trademarks. & : post projects to both services.

OUTLINE FOR DESCRIBING A PROJECT (in an explicit and unambiguous way)

1. Project name : give it a short descriptive title

2. Description : describe in detail
a. overview
b. specifics, broken into outline form
- deliverables (what you will receive when project is completed)
- format
- uploads of supporting materials
c. bid requirements : what needs to be included with bids
- intellectual property rights : "work for hire"
- required commencement and completion dates
- samples of previous work
- number of revisions for creative projects

3. Budget : (in most cases, don't disclose budget)

4. Time to bid

5. Scope of Service Providers (what "class" can bid, recommend make available to entire database)
Have a formal written project plan agreement. has online templates for this.

Virtual Support Organizations (VSO) provide ongoing support like an employee, but from a distance.

Financial management : use online accounting systems ( so a virtual CFO can remotely manage and keep me up-to-date on every aspect of my company's financial health.

Precisely spell out what you want done, how it is to be done, and the desired measurable outcome once it is done.

Know what kinds of special skills or experience are required to do the job most effectively.

------- First contact with VA:

My company is seeking the services of a professional virtual assistant with experience in the following areas:
- thing1
- thing2
- thing3

We found your listing on (website) and it appears you may have the proficiency we are looking for.

The work we need done on an ongoing basis is as follows:
- describe
- stuff
- here

Please take the time to review it carefully before answering the questions below:

1. Why do you feel you have the required expertise and experience to handle our support needs as described above?

2. Why do you feel you are the best VA available to do this work for us?

3. What assurances can you give us that any tasks we hire you to perform will continue without interruption or degradation of quality or timeliness if you go on vacation or suddenly become incapacitated.

4. What assurances can you guve us that you will not take on more business than you can reasonably handle?

5. Given the above description of what we need done, are you willing to charge on the basis of achieving the end results, rather than by the hour?

6. Within the last 7 years, have you been involved in litigation or had complaints lodged against you as a result of your work? If so, give details.

7. Are you willing to allow us to do a background check on you and your company?

In addition to answering the above questions, please include the following with your responses:

- your bio that includes any special training or certifications you have received relative to your VA work and a timeline showing when you started your VA business

- the state/province/country where your current business license/permit is filed

- sample of the Indepdent Contractors Agreement you typically use

- samples of your work product that are similar to what we are asking you to have done

- contact information for 3-6 current clients for whom you are currently doing the same or similar tasks as we are requesting

- contact information for 3-6 previous clients for whom you have done the same or similar tasks as we are requesting

If you need clarification for any of the above questions or documentation requests, just reply to this email with your questions. You can find out more about our company by going to

We are looking forward to your response and the possibilty of establishing an ongoing working relationship with you.


------------------------------ AFTER PHONE:
Now that you've had an opportunity to review the support processes we need to have done, what other clarifications or specifics about it can I provide you?

Do you have any suggestions for completing what we need done in a more effective manner than the way it was described?

Are you anticipating any initial setup before you can start? If so, what will it entail and how much will it cost?

Why do you require a retainer? What happpens to the unused balance at the end of each month?

Why are you excited about taking on my company as a client?

What is the range of hours during the day I can contact you?

Are there any restrictions as to when or how I can contact you in the event of an emergency?

How often do you invoice and what "net" terms do you typically require?

Do you have any concerns or objections if we use my own Indepdent Contractor's Agreement for our working relationship?

How soon can you start?

- value the relationship
- see your VA as an equal partner
- articulate your needs and wants well
- maintain a trusting relationship
- stay centered, focused, and organized so as not to distract your VA

- fail to communicate when they request something from you
- attempt to micromanage
- treat your VA like a low-level employee
- live in the urgent, where everything is last-minute

Do not make the mistake of dumping more and broader scope of work on them, as time goes on.

Important to have a written business process for each support function a VA does for you. This discipline will quickly disappear into a mist of good intentions as soon as you try to broaden the scope of your VAs.

COO : Must have extensive experience assisting businesses from the strategic, operational, and HR perspectives.

Start with the small steps of hiring VAs for specific, measurable tasks. After you have two or more working with you and everything is going smoothly, consider hiring an executive level VA to grow your virtual team beyond that point.

If your VA team interacts with your prospects, customers, or suppliers, have them use your email signature (with their name not yours).