Brett Boyer founded Center Sphere on the notion there’s a difference between networking and relationships. Rapid expansion and 10 times growth in five years shows he’s on to something.

From a very young age, Brett Boyer has known the value of relationships. Raised in Mullen, Nebraska, population 500-ish, he grew up in an environment where everyone knew and looked out for everyone else. Then, in his teens, a funny thing happened on the outskirts of town that cemented his understanding of relationship-building as a central component of success.

“In ‘95 I was 14 and Sand Hills Golf Club was built. It changed my life,” he said. “I was able to meet billionaires, famous people, all sort of things as a caddy out there. It changed my perspective on what was possible.”

Inspired by the successful golfers who came from everywhere to play the now-world-famous course, Boyer earned a full-ride scholarship from the Western Golf Association to attend the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, where he’d major in finance and plot multiple side hustles along the way.

The Beginnings

Center Sphere, founded in 2010, was one of those businesses, providing a digital means for developing relationships. Boyer winces at the word networking, because the relationship model at the company’s core works at a deeper level.

“I believe God made us all for relationship and in today’s world, with social media and everything else, we don’t really get to know a person,” he said. “A lot of networking companies out there just focus on building your business. We took the opposite approach on the belief that people are going to do business with who they like and trust. We try to teach people to focus on building that relationship and the business comes from that.”

Using a subscription model — membership runs about $30 per month — individuals connect with other members and begin the process of relationship-building under the coordination of strategically placed coordinators. Boyer said the typical member is a small business owner or salesperson 40 to 47 years of age, but selling is just one small part of what’s available.

“Basically, Center Sphere is giving people a platform to, what we call ‘allow people to adult,’” he said. “We call it The Hub, a back-end dashboard people converse on and trade business and whatnot. We don’t make anybody do anything; we offer this wide variety of everything, but you pick and choose what’s best for you. We really try to make it all-inclusive because we have so many different avenues that people can pick and choose what they want to do.

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“Some people join to be a part of something bigger than themselves. They don’t have an agenda, they don’t need to build a business, they just want to meet great people and be a part of philanthropic effort. Others need to make that sale tomorrow to keep the lights on.”

Expanding Reach

In the five years since Boyer took over the venture full-time, Center Sphere has grown to operations in 22 states, four paid staffers at Omaha headquarters and a dozen market coordinators who manage membership within different areas as independent contractors.

The firm expects more growth with the release of its app in early 2022.

Not surprisingly, COVID-19 has factored considerably into company growth as in-person events fell by the wayside.

“Well, we thought we were doing the right thing all along, and then we found out we were,” Boyer said of COVID’s impact. “Since then, we’re allowing people to meet in person if they feel comfortable, or online if they don’t. We still have people who don’t want to meet in person, and that’s fine.”

Boyer’s description of Center Sphere may sound a little touchy-feely, but the founder also notes it’s very effective in developing new business leads as an efficient alternative to traditional networking strategies.

“Business cards and all that, I say leave them at home. I can’t remember the last time I was at a networking event and I took a business card home. I’m just being honest,” he said. “Business is transactional; no matter how you look at it, it’s transactional, it’s one and done. But if you have a relationship, you will continue to do business with that person or refer them business.

“In order to build a long-standing business relationship. Any time you have that and can possibly buy from or use somebody you know, like and trust, you’re going to them first.”

Boyer said he’s grateful for the ride thus far – now including Midlands Business Journal’s 2021 Entrepreneur of the Year honors, which he called, “amazing, the coolest, a great honor” — and he’s looking forward to the good yet to be done through the company.

“Center Sphere fills a lot of buckets for me,” he said. “I enjoy consulting, especially small business, and this allows me to build a platform that helps a lot of people. I couldn’t help thousands of small businesses by myself, but this allows me to do that.”