Where are we in the cycle?

Why ask?

Or, more likely, for most home building firms who operate using project financing and acquisition and development loans, why might it be necessary to know?

As local economics and the ebb-and-flow of industry sectors would have it, the answer to the "where are we in the cycle?" question may be night and day different from one zip code to the next, from one week to the next, from one earnings season to the next.

The answer means, for most, one of two imperatives. Grow by securing access to more capital and absorb overheads through scale. Or, harvest cash, reduce costs including the costs of debt, and limit exposure to protracted spending on assets that aren't apt to turn soon.

This question, of course, will be--spoken and inferred--at the core of our Housing Leadership Summit meeting of home building's leaders in just a few weeks.

Where we are in the cycle is a question that in a way affirms the role of a force that is bigger, more complex, and more capricious than any single organization's business strategy can model for. Except that there are organizations whose plan can and does model for "where we are in the cycle," with both geographic and timing precision.

But not everybody is like that, so, at the upcoming Housing Leadership Summit, we're planning bootcamp sessions for leaders of companies that need to look at human capital, process, customer-centricity, and optionality around finance as their way toward greater agility, increased nimbleness, and improved ability to lean in on opportunity ahead, vs. spending time and energy mitigating risk.

For instance, if you want a high-level strategists' clinic on capital and finance options for home building organizations right now, here's where the money is:

Breakout HLS Boot Camp: Finance
Home building is a capital intensive business. Without access to capital, builders are unable to support growth. Well-capitalized builders will have a capital stack with multiple types of capital. This boot camp dives into the kinds of capital potentially available to builders, the current market conditions and the general terms and conditions associated with each type of capital. Traditional bank debt, long-term notes and bonds, land banking, project level joint ventures, private equity and other alternative capital sources can all have a place in a builder's capital stack depending on a number of variables, including size, profitability and leverage among others. Considerations builders should review in deciding on how to properly capitalize their company will be discussed. These capital sources, along with a sale of the company, can provide liquidity in whole or in part for owners. The current state of the M&A market as it is related to home building will be reviewed.

Moderating this session, we have FTI Consulting managing director Brad Foster, and our capital "clinicians" include an all-star line-up of people who are not only experts, but are in the trenches and the tranches as we speak. Here's who's going to be with us for this bootcamp workshop:

Bird Anderson, executive vice president, Homebuilder Banking, Wells Fargo; Tony Avila, chief executive officer, Builder Advisor Group; Robert Crowley, Managing Director, Moelis & Company; Anthony McGill, Managing Director, Zelman Associates; Rodney Montag, chief executive officer and Managing Partner, RAM Real Estate Capital; Jamie Pirrello, chief financial officer, UCP, Inc.; Joe (Phillip) Walsh, associate, Michael P. Kahn & Associates.

Think of it this way. It's two hours with people who judge their own success not only on having a pretty good sense of where we are in the cycle, but on making it so that home builders get more valuable based on how well they act on that knowledge.

Is May/June and beyond in 2016 time for your organization to grow, access more capital to continue scaling up, build more stores, and pull your costs through a larger balance sheet? Or is it time to lock in improved margins on operational excellence, efficiencies, faster inventory turns, and build some dry powder?

There'll be no better place and time, both to hear the experts and explore the options with peers who share the same challenges in different markets than HLS, May 16-18, at the Ritz Carlton, Laguna Niguel, Calif.

See you there.