WD-40 Company: The Squeak, Smell, and Dirt Business (B) Net Present Value (NPV) / MBA Resources

Introduction to Net Present Value (NPV) - What is Net Present Value (NPV) ? How it impacts financial decisions regarding project management?

NPV solution for WD-40 Company: The Squeak, Smell, and Dirt Business (B) case study

At Oak Spring University, we provide corporate level professional Net Present Value (NPV) case study solution. WD-40 Company: The Squeak, Smell, and Dirt Business (B) case study is a Harvard Business School (HBR) case study written by Gerry Yemen, James G. Clawson, Marcia Conner. The WD-40 Company: The Squeak, Smell, and Dirt Business (B) (referred as “Wd Ridge” from here on) case study provides evaluation & decision scenario in field of Organizational Development. It also touches upon business topics such as - Value proposition, Knowledge management, Marketing, Organizational culture.

The net present value (NPV) of an investment proposal is the present value of the proposal’s net cash flows less the proposal’s initial cash outflow. If a project’s NPV is greater than or equal to zero, the project should be accepted.

NPV = Present Value of Future Cash Flows LESS Project’s Initial Investment

Case Description of WD-40 Company: The Squeak, Smell, and Dirt Business (B) Case Study

In the fall of 1999 Garry Ridge, the newly appointed CEO of WD-40 Company, wanted to rejuvenate the company and stimulate its employees to look beyond the firm's relatively narrow focus of the last 43 years. The very nature of WD-40 Company's success in capturing the market had created its own limited growth opportunities. The A case describes the company's one-product business success, and Ridge's background. The B case reveals some of the challenges Ridge faced in implementing change. The B case tells how the new CEO helped WD-40 company achieve growth in both new products and markets through related acquisitions. Despite these purchases, though, the company's earnings failed to climb in the years between 1998 and 2001. Ridge concluded that he needed to do more than just buy more companies, so he framed a model of strong leadership and "learning theory" that he thought would enable the company outsmart its competitors. He built a framework that was demanding, yet forgiving, when individuals fell short. Ridge held employees responsible for their results, but he encouraged everyone to acknowledge mistakes and learn from them. The company's financial results suggest success for his leadership model. This case set lends instructors a valuable tool to conduct conversations in the classroom about leadership and leading strategic change.

Case Authors : Gerry Yemen, James G. Clawson, Marcia Conner

Topic : Organizational Development

Related Areas : Knowledge management, Marketing, Organizational culture

Calculating Net Present Value (NPV) at 6% for WD-40 Company: The Squeak, Smell, and Dirt Business (B) Case Study

Years              Cash Flow     Net Cash Flow     Cumulative    
Cash Flow
Discount Rate
@ 6 %
Cash Flows
Year 0 (10029819) -10029819 - -
Year 1 3469344 -6560475 3469344 0.9434 3272966
Year 2 3961806 -2598669 7431150 0.89 3525993
Year 3 3939477 1340808 11370627 0.8396 3307661
Year 4 3241701 4582509 14612328 0.7921 2567731
TOTAL 14612328 12674351

The Net Present Value at 6% discount rate is 2644532

In isolation the NPV number doesn't mean much but put in right context then it is one of the best method to evaluate project returns. In this article we will cover -

Different methods of capital budgeting

What is NPV & Formula of NPV,
How it is calculated,
How to use NPV number for project evaluation, and
Scenario Planning given risks and management priorities.

Capital Budgeting Approaches

Methods of Capital Budgeting

There are four types of capital budgeting techniques that are widely used in the corporate world –

1. Net Present Value
2. Payback Period
3. Internal Rate of Return
4. Profitability Index

Apart from the Payback period method which is an additive method, rest of the methods are based on Discounted Cash Flow technique. Even though cash flow can be calculated based on the nature of the project, for the simplicity of the article we are assuming that all the expected cash flows are realized at the end of the year.

Discounted Cash Flow approaches provide a more objective basis for evaluating and selecting investment projects. They take into consideration both –

1. Timing of the expected cash flows – stockholders of Wd Ridge have higher preference for cash returns over 4-5 years rather than 10-15 years given the nature of the volatility in the industry.
2. Magnitude of both incoming and outgoing cash flows – Projects can be capital intensive, time intensive, or both. Wd Ridge shareholders have preference for diversified projects investment rather than prospective high income from a single capital intensive project.

Formula and Steps to Calculate Net Present Value (NPV) of WD-40 Company: The Squeak, Smell, and Dirt Business (B)

NPV = Net Cash In Flowt1 / (1+r)t1 + Net Cash In Flowt2 / (1+r)t2 + … Net Cash In Flowtn / (1+r)tn
Less Net Cash Out Flowt0 / (1+r)t0

Where t = time period, in this case year 1, year 2 and so on.
r = discount rate or return that could be earned using other safe proposition such as fixed deposit or treasury bond rate. Net Cash In Flow – What the firm will get each year.
Net Cash Out Flow – What the firm needs to invest initially in the project.

Step 1 – Understand the nature of the project and calculate cash flow for each year.
Step 2 – Discount those cash flow based on the discount rate.
Step 3 – Add all the discounted cash flow.
Step 4 – Selection of the project

Why Organizational Development Managers need to know Financial Tools such as Net Present Value (NPV)?

In our daily workplace we often come across people and colleagues who are just focused on their core competency and targets they have to deliver. For example marketing managers at Wd Ridge often design programs whose objective is to drive brand awareness and customer reach. But how that 30 point increase in brand awareness or 10 point increase in customer touch points will result into shareholders’ value is not specified.

To overcome such scenarios managers at Wd Ridge needs to not only know the financial aspect of project management but also needs to have tools to integrate them into part of the project development and monitoring plan.

Calculating Net Present Value (NPV) at 15%

After working through various assumptions we reached a conclusion that risk is far higher than 6%. In a reasonably stable industry with weak competition - 15% discount rate can be a good benchmark.

Years              Cash Flow     Net Cash Flow     Cumulative    
Cash Flow
Discount Rate
@ 15 %
Cash Flows
Year 0 (10029819) -10029819 - -
Year 1 3469344 -6560475 3469344 0.8696 3016821
Year 2 3961806 -2598669 7431150 0.7561 2995695
Year 3 3939477 1340808 11370627 0.6575 2590270
Year 4 3241701 4582509 14612328 0.5718 1853453
TOTAL 10456239

The Net NPV after 4 years is 426420

(10456239 - 10029819 )

Calculating Net Present Value (NPV) at 20%

If the risk component is high in the industry then we should go for a higher hurdle rate / discount rate of 20%.

Years              Cash Flow     Net Cash Flow     Cumulative    
Cash Flow
Discount Rate
@ 20 %
Cash Flows
Year 0 (10029819) -10029819 - -
Year 1 3469344 -6560475 3469344 0.8333 2891120
Year 2 3961806 -2598669 7431150 0.6944 2751254
Year 3 3939477 1340808 11370627 0.5787 2279790
Year 4 3241701 4582509 14612328 0.4823 1563320
TOTAL 9485484

The Net NPV after 4 years is -544335

At 20% discount rate the NPV is negative (9485484 - 10029819 ) so ideally we can't select the project if macro and micro factors don't allow financial managers of Wd Ridge to discount cash flow at lower discount rates such as 15%.

Acceptance Criteria of a Project based on NPV

Simplest Approach – If the investment project of Wd Ridge has a NPV value higher than Zero then finance managers at Wd Ridge can ACCEPT the project, otherwise they can reject the project. This means that project will deliver higher returns over the period of time than any alternate investment strategy.

In theory if the required rate of return or discount rate is chosen correctly by finance managers at Wd Ridge, then the stock price of the Wd Ridge should change by same amount of the NPV. In real world we know that share price also reflects various other factors that can be related to both macro and micro environment.

In the same vein – accepting the project with zero NPV should result in stagnant share price. Finance managers use discount rates as a measure of risk components in the project execution process.

Sensitivity Analysis

Project selection is often a far more complex decision than just choosing it based on the NPV number. Finance managers at Wd Ridge should conduct a sensitivity analysis to better understand not only the inherent risk of the projects but also how those risks can be either factored in or mitigated during the project execution. Sensitivity analysis helps in –

What are the key aspects of the projects that need to be monitored, refined, and retuned for continuous delivery of projected cash flows.

Understanding of risks involved in the project.

What will be a multi year spillover effect of various taxation regulations.

What can impact the cash flow of the project.

What are the uncertainties surrounding the project Initial Cash Outlay (ICO’s). ICO’s often have several different components such as land, machinery, building, and other equipment.

Some of the assumptions while using the Discounted Cash Flow Methods –

Projects are assumed to be Mutually Exclusive – This is seldom the came in modern day giant organizations where projects are often inter-related and rejecting a project solely based on NPV can result in sunk cost from a related project.

Independent projects have independent cash flows – As explained in the marketing project – though the project may look independent but in reality it is not as the brand awareness project can be closely associated with the spending on sales promotions and product specific advertising.

References & Further Readings

Gerry Yemen, James G. Clawson, Marcia Conner (2018), "WD-40 Company: The Squeak, Smell, and Dirt Business (B) Harvard Business Review Case Study. Published by HBR Publications.