"At Centex, we are used to taking advantages of these cycles ... . That's something we are used to doing," Timothy R. Eller told the audience at a presentation at the JPMorgan Homebuilding and Building Products Conference in Las Vegas on Tuesday evening. The Centex Corp. will continue to focus on selling homes, reducing costs, and generating cash as it rides out the rough water of the downturn, Eller said.

Like every other big builder, Centex is shifting focus on generating cash, minimizing inventory, selling homes, and lowering overhead costs. But Eller also sees this current correction as a training exercise. As the builder navigates through this downturn, Centex will not only train future leaders, but also identify who will be best suited to lead the company through future downturns.

So what has Eller learned after six downturns? According to his presentation, there are four keys:

  • Sticking to "A" locations. In other words, avoid the fringe even if it slows growth;
  • Control complexity when it comes to customer segments, product lines, and house plans;
  • Focus on asset turns; and
  • Maintain a flexible land position.
  • Eller, a veteran of six housing sector corrections beginning in 1974-1975, said this downturn may be the "deepest, longest, and most excessive" he has ever seen. And he added, "There is no way to predict when this thing will bottom."

    "Looks like this is going to be the deepest correction since World War II," he noted.

    Learn more about markets featured in this article: Las Vegas, NV.