Christian Broyhill has lived the story of watching a multigenerational family business — Broyhill Furniture Industries — morph into a family office and has experienced the dynamics that come along with such a transition. Her lived experience led her down the path of working with the next generation of wealth holders by founding NextGen Journeys. She shared her journey with Crain Currency.
You come from a family business. Can you share your story?
I am a fourth-generation family member of the Broyhill family. My great-grandfather J.E. Broyhill founded Lenoir Chair Co. in North Carolina in 1926, which later became Broyhill Furniture. My grandfather Paul Broyhill started working with his father after completing college and World War II service and contributed to significant growth for the company, eventually becoming its CEO. Paul sold Broyhill Furniture Industries and the Broyhill name at the company’s height in the 1980s. From the proceeds of this event, my grandfather structured the BMC fund that he managed alongside my father, Hunt Broyhill, on behalf of the Broyhill family. While my grandfather passed away in 2021, we continue to maintain a family office in Lenoir, North Carolina, that is primarily operated by my father. I do not work for our family in an official capacity, but my father and I have partnered together for speaking engagements and also for family enterprise consulting.
A few years before my grandfather died, I had the responsibility of driving him two hours to a family holiday event. Aware of his age, I brought a list of questions with me. When I asked, “What are you most proud of?” he did not talk about Broyhill Furniture Industries. Instead, he talked to me about the Broyhill Family Foundation [founded in 1946] and particularly his involvement in creating the Broyhill Home within Baptist Children’s Homes of North Carolina. When I consider my family’s story, it is one of incredible entrepreneurship, yes, but also one that encouraged me to constantly consider the needs of my community.
You’ve talked about being very aware of your last name. How do you deal with that?
As I’ve worked with next-gens over the years, both in peer groups and also as their coach, I’ve noticed a theme — so often we are attached not to our own identity but to the identity we represent. “We do this because we are Broyhills” is a phrase I heard frequently while growing up to describe the responsibility my family had to my community. And I know that my experience is not unique. I’ll never forget the moment I sat in a fast food restaurant as a teenager, and an older adult came up to me to say: “Are you a Broyhill? You have that Broyhill face.” As I consider my own personal narrative, it’s one where my physical body has represented an institution and a legacy before I could even walk or talk. My family experienced a significant liquidity event shortly before I was born, and I grew up in its wake.
Over time, I’ve learned that in order to develop as an individual, it is not enough to simply represent my family well. I must also develop my own personal identity. While I might be an extension of my family’s presence in my community, I have the responsibility to develop my own personal mission statement and identity that goes beyond my family’s legacy. If not, I think the pressure to conform or perform can feel more like being swallowed than empowered.
Your personal experience led you to your career in psychology. How has that shaped your journey?
Well, originally, I received a bachelor's degree in music and Spanish during a significant global recession. Do you know how marketable I was when I applied for jobs and I explained that I had decades of training as a classically trained singer?
I did eventually pursue a master's in clinical mental health counseling. I felt strongly that because of the privilege I had been given growing up, I had the additional privilege and perhaps responsibility to pursue a vocation dedicated to the service of others. I focused my studies and post-graduate training on learning as much as I could about post-traumatic stress disorder. I spent five years at a sexual trauma agency, where I dedicated myself to English- and Spanish-speaking survivors of abuse. In addition to processing trauma with individual survivors, I also taught courses on trauma-informed care to family members of survivors and taught a weekly resiliency/coping skill course.
So, what led you to NextGen Journeys?
I honestly never thought I would leave agency work. I loved the clients I worked with and providing affordable care to those in serious need. However, in 2018 I had the opportunity to begin attending family office events with my father. I wanted to learn more about our family and how I could be integrated into our family office. I found a significant wealth of information and an incredible network of peers.
However, I noticed a lack in the presented content. Presenters talked about the importance of creating good succession planning as well as the bright futures that resilient families could have. Yet, we were not learning how to truly be resilient aside from learning to reference the strength of our family’s original wealth creator. Knowing the stories of [first generation] family members is important, but sometimes it feels like we talk about it as if it turns on some magic spigot of “specialness” or resiliency that will just flow through us. Life doesn’t work like that. We have to each learn individually how to become resilient. I used to spend each week teaching resiliency techniques to individuals who came on a low-/no-cost basis and was struck that they somehow had more skills than those who paid thousands to attend a conference. I started to wonder: As we pass down financial resources, are we perhaps passing down inverse resources when it comes to resiliency and self-actualization? The more we pass down wealth, we pass down access to great things — education for our children, opportunities to engage in the arts, take our families on incredible vacations, make significant change within our communities and perhaps the globe. However, with that wealth, we also often pass down a myth that the power, resiliency and innovation of the [first generation] wealth creator will just naturally come to us. And then it doesn’t. And no amount of money can pay for that. We have to develop it ourselves.
The creation of NextGen Journeys has felt like the most authentic way for me to continue doing the work I love. We need more people who can come alongside high-net-worth families and individuals not as an adviser or as a therapist but as someone who can truly understand the emotional complexities of multigenerational wealth and can provide resources so that families can thrive. When families become genuinely healthy beyond creating health on paper with a good estate plan, I believe they have the potential to create immense positive community change.
What makes you uniquely qualified to do this type of work?
I’m uniquely qualified to do this work because, by doing this work for others, I’m also committing to do it myself. I am a fourth-generation family member with my own 8-year-old daughter in [generation five]. Just a few weeks ago, my daughter got out of school early, and we decided to go spend some time at the North Carolina Museum of History. It’s 10 minutes from my house and has free entry, so we go quite a bit! She noticed there was a new exhibit and sprinted in before I could read the title on the wall — “Furniture: Crafting a North Carolina Legacy.”
Before I could gather my thoughts, I was staring at panels with my grandfather’s name on them as well as original Broyhill furniture pieces. I had not planned on talking to my daughter that day, but suddenly there I was — stumbling through a unique parenting conversation that only some families understand. I’m committed to this work because I cannot separate myself from it.
While it is normal to acknowledge words like privilege and responsibility, I’m not sure that sufficient space exists for NextGens to discuss some of the shadow sides of wealth. I take a trauma-informed approach when working with families/individuals and am always thinking about this work through the lens of how decisions might impact our stress response or overall health.
Beyond my clinical training, I have also received a certificate from Kennesaw State University in next-gen family enterprise leadership. I have completed moderator training through the Young Presidents’ Organization and have also received accreditation to administer the iEQ9 integrative enneagram assessment. I plan to keep learning as much as I can so that I can stay committed to my own personal work while also helping families do theirs.
What do you think families need to work on the most when it comes to communication?
This is an interesting question. I know we talk about communication a lot in the family enterprise world and the effectiveness of various communication techniques. However, I think that before we talk about how to communicate with others, we need to know how we communicate with ourselves. I think one of the most important assets a family can have is a group of family members who are committed to their own individual resiliency and self-actualization.