Getting to Know Florin Ilie, Founder of After5.io

Getting to Know Florin Ilie, Founder of After5.io

By Sara Bristoll |
Aug, 08 2019

As a successful entrepreneur, Florin Ilie operates with the mindset of doing great work, helping people solve problems, and allowing those who work with you to do what they love and what they’re good at. He pulls inspiration for his work ethic, and from the After5 values, from his past, from local businesses he frequents and from other business leaders who are successfully breaking the traditional corporate hierarchy mold. Read on to learn more about Florin, After5.io, and how to take the plunge and branch out.

What is your favorite local restaurant?

I spend a lot of my lunch time at Cafe Pino. It’s a local gem, off the beaten path, with some of the best Italian and French food I’ve had anywhere. I’m a very picky eater, as my wife and mom unfortunately can attest to, and I travel a lot. Cafe Pino is my favorite restaurant by far; they offer amazing food every single time. There are quite a few traits I have drawn inspiration from there: quality, consistency, and attention to detail. Deliver an enjoyable experience, as close to perfection as you can get, every time. Consistency is a key. Try it.

Do you have a favorite quote?

It’s more a realization than a quote: 

There are 2 fundamental forces in human life from which everything else derives: love and fear.

What qualities are important for leaders to possess? What do they need to make them successful?

The top 3 qualities I believe are essential for leadership are acquired, cultivated skills: 

  1. Serving Others with a Deep Belief 
  2. Empathy and Emotional Intelligence
  3. Letting Go of Fear and Insecurity

What tips and tricks do you have for achieving a work/life balance?

I am extremely fortunate to do what I love and make a living with it. For me, work is life and life is work. Having said that, my balance is about work/family. 

The secret for me has been planning the time. My week is accounted for to the minute. I am deliberate about allocating time for work and time for family. It’s pretty much scheduled in my calendar. Routine makes it easier to “manage” time. 

Managing priorities is also important. Define what they really are for you when it’s all said and done. For me #1 is family, #2 is work. Life is time. Allocating that time is the key.

Running (and growing) an organization like this takes quite a bit of work and dedication. What do you do to get away from things and recharge?

Sleep. Seriously, sleep is my number one, most effective way for me to regenerate. The passion for what I do and for this project, along with my family, keep me motivated to go back at it as soon as I’m rested.

Any advice for setting up a productive ‘work-from-home’ environment?

Well... I work from a CoWork environment. Working full days from home has led to a bit of “cabin fever” for me in the past. I still do limited hours of work from home, and having a dedicated “work” space / room that’s free of distractions has helped me a lot.

What inspired you to work in technology and programming?

The joy of building stuff and seeing it work. Creating new things, making things work, solving challenges, and being laser focused on very logical, structured projects, while letting myself be driven by an inner intuition, often puts me into a “zen” type of state.

For me, coding is a form of meditation.

Visualizing complex systems, their architecture, and interdependencies feels like transcending into another dimension sometimes. It’s a fun experience.

According to LinkedIn, you’ve been on the ground floor of a few different companies. What drives you to take those chances?

I have the itch: the “entrepreneur” itch. Being on the ground floor of building companies scratches that itch.

I love the freedom to dream, visualize, act, and feel inspired, all the while making money, having control over my financial life, and the opportunity to build a legacy.

I didn’t grow up with “financial security” or even expected one to be provided for me. The only thought that ever crossed my mind was that I have to create it for myself and for my family. Taking chances was easy because I looked at them as opportunities, the biggest loss for me was not taking them. Generally, I consider myself fairly conservative in risk taking. I’d say that the key is “calculated risk” where we don’t confuse fear for caution, or wishful thinking for optimism. Caution and optimism are good, fear and wishful thinking are not. Success is not a destination, it's a journey filled with passion, work, personal growth, and happiness.

What we really need to celebrate more are all the "failures" that make success possible.

Of course, success is not all about the money, but in the context of business and “chances” with financial implications, I think you also have to love money. You have to value and appreciate it. There have been times when, to get myself motivated to do work when I was too tired to or really did not feel like, I had to take a look at my bank account. I have been literally logging into my online banking and looking at my account balances. I know that picture may be pretty strange, but loving and appreciating money is pretty important when it comes to financial success, risks, and opportunities. Sometimes I feel I can relate to Mr. Krabs...

What advice would you give someone looking to take that leap into starting up on their own?

All it takes to start is a shift in the mindset. That’s it. That shift is understanding that we are all already on “our own”. We are all already business owners and entrepreneurs as soon as we realize that anyone paying us is our client; even if that person or entity is our only client. 

Many of us may not realize that our personal and family’s finances work no different than any other business: it’s money coming in and money going out, the difference is the financial health.

Most people have an employer. It’s just a matter of semantics and of mindset. The employer is the single, most committed client.

I think that labeling ourselves as “employees” is rather disempowering.

Realizing that we have a client, we own our professional lives, and that we own a business, which is our career, is empowering. Everything else is a matter of technicalities and semantics. 

Too many of us have been conditioned to see ourselves as "employees", "human assets", or "resources", as dependent on someone else for our livelihoods. The reality is that we are already business owners. All we have to do is claim that ownership. Ownership fosters responsibility and accountability for our actions and choices, for our past, present, and future, and puts us in control of our own success. Employers are our (first) clients. Everything starts there. Treat your career as your business and your employer as your client. Provide that client with exceptional value. Next step? Invest in growth: add another client.

What inspired you to start After5? Where did it stem from? What needs were you looking to fill?

About 2 years ago, in 2017, August 12th to be exact (thanks to digital photography time stamps), after watching one of the most inspiring videos I’ve seen, “Start with Why” by Simon Sinek, I decided to do some digging inside and some soul searching on what drives me, what I am really passionate about, what do I believe in, why do I do what I do, what is my “why”? 

What I came up with was “Empowering People”. That came out of the realization that, unlike many, I was in the privileged position to have been able to pursue and achieve many of my dreams thanks to owning a business and experiencing the perks that come with it: the feeling of being in control and the ability to build wealth. For me, that was defining the feeling of being empowered. I felt that I’d like more people to feel and experience that, I wanted to share it with others.

It took me another year to figure out how I could empower other people, and what I can do in terms of practical steps to accomplish that. After5 has turned out to be more than a business model, as it transcends into a philosophy, a way of life, a way of serving others, and a path for people to achieve more financial and professional control, independence, and diversification. It all started with finding my “why”:

“I believe in empowering people to pursue and achieve their dreams”.

Empowerment has a lot to do with power. And power has everything to do with control and leverage. Having more control over time, life, location, decisions, and financial well being leads to more empowered people. Leveraging technology and relationships, knowledge and experience, we empower people, start-ups, and small businesses to pursue and achieve their dreams.

After5.io is the place where the professionals' need for independence, control, and opportunities, coupled with their skills and experience, and small businesses' need for access to qualified talent meet, aligning interests in a context of known and consistent values, and helping each other pursue and achieve their own dreams.

What do you look for when you’re considering hiring a freelancer to After5’s team?

People who resonate with our mission and our values. Everything we do derives from what we are about. People who are passionate, love what they do, are honest with others and themselves, and enjoy seeing their talents translate into positive changes in their clients' lives, all the while building more control and more opportunities into their financial and professional lives align well with what After5 is all about.

Most of the freelancing talent you work with at After5 is local, Phoenix-based web developers and designers. Why is local talent so important and what benefit does that bring to the clients who come to After5 for help?

Even though After5.io is in the technology space, it is about people first; and, it sees technology as a means to solve people’s problems, help make their lives better, and empower them to pursue and achieve their dreams. The bonds and the relationships created by people during their careers and professional lives have a powerful impact not only on their personal lives, happiness, and well being, but also on their performance and ability to solve complex problems and deliver solutions as a team.

The “local driven” component of After5 comes from the belief that proximity, culture, community, the ability to meet and have a very personal experience with each other as a team, while preserving independence and control over when and how people work, increases the personal satisfaction people get from work and leads to improved results. 

The global economy has, on the one hand, brought tremendous abundance and helped create bridges between very disconnected parts of the world; on the other hand it has left many communities feel alienated and many people miss the “personal” and “human” ingredient of fulfilling relationships. While we are more connected than ever to the world, we are more disconnected than ever from our neighbors and from our communities. 

By incorporating the “local” factor into After5, we try to bring that sense of community, close relationships, and personal experience with others back into the focus, as a catalyst to happier and more fulfilled professional lives.

What’s your philosophy for working with clients? They say ‘the customer is always right’ do you agree with that mantra? 

The relationship with clients is fundamentally the same as other relationships, and is driven by the same core values: respect and empathy. Nobody wins when someone is “always right”. 

Having said that, when we have a client, we are in a position to serve that client. Part of serving others is carefully listening, having empathy, and genuinely trying to help. While customers may not always be “right,” they always have a point, even if we don’t agree with it. Serving is making an effort to understand that point and helping them, and us, find our way to a place that addresses their needs and our limitations.

People tend to freelance because it grants them some flexibility and control over when and how they work. Do you think more traditional businesses are going to have to give up their traditional scheduled workday and offer a more fluid work schedule in order to keep top talent?

According to recent studies (NPR, US department of labor, Intuit, Forbes), freelance work has grown from 10.1% in 2005 to 15.8% in 2015 and at the current growth rate will likely reach 50.9% by 2027 in the US. Forty-seven percent of working millennials already freelance in some form. 

I’m not sure traditional businesses will have a choice. There is a shift in power from the traditional / corporate business to the individual and to the people. This is in part driven by technology, in part by the lessons learned from the 2007 financial crisis. Newer generations in the workforce today have more options than ever, and one of them is the ability to diversify and own their income streams. It makes business sense, and it makes personal sense. The old allegiances and loyalties are no longer found in today’s organizations. 

Diversification provides more opportunities, leverage, and control.

I’d argue that freelance provides people, long term, with more stability than the traditional businesses employment because it allows for more diversified streams of income, exposure to more opportunities, knowledge and technologies, and provides ownership and the ability to leave a legacy to their families.

In some ways, you can compare business ownership to home ownership: it helps build equity, goodwill, wealth, and can be passed on to our families. Not only businesses will have to adapt to this new reality, but they will benefit from more motivated, more creative, more engaged, more accountable, and ultimately more empowered people contributing to their success.


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