Lott Industries: The CEO Fights for Survival 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 Lott Industries: The CEO Fights for Survival case study

At Oak Spring University, we provide corporate level professional Net Present Value (NPV) case study solution. Lott Industries: The CEO Fights for Survival case study is a Harvard Business School (HBR) case study written by Denise M. Tanguay, Mary E. Vielhaber. The Lott Industries: The CEO Fights for Survival (referred as “Lott Browne” from here on) case study provides evaluation & decision scenario in field of Strategy & Execution. It also touches upon business topics such as - Value proposition, Influence, Organizational structure, Social enterprise.

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 Lott Industries: The CEO Fights for Survival Case Study

In November 2009, a year after the U.S. economy began sliding into a deep recession, Joan Uhl Browne, the CEO of Lott Industries, faced a looming crisis. As financial losses mounted, would she be able to save the company she had led for two and a half years? Lott was a non-profit organization in Toledo, Ohio, that employed over 1200 adults with developmental disabilities when Browne took over in April 2007. The case traces Browne's steps as she tried to replace the loss of over 85 percent of the organization's revenues, build a management team and create new, innovative products. As Browne and her management team pursued a business model of diversification and business growth, they viewed the Lucas County Board of Developmental Disabilities, which hired the Lott staff and controlled Lott's financial resources, as an obstacle to implementing changes. The critical decision was which strategy was most likely to be successful in assuring the survival of Lott Industries: to keep doing what Lott had traditionally done, finding contracts geared to their current employee-consumers' skill levels as well as innovating, or to focus on securing long-term, higher margin contracts that require the flexibility to hire employees who do not have developmental disabilities, but who can do the jobs. The all-out effort to save Lott Industries through 2009 included restructuring the organization, searching for any and all kinds of contracts, and developing in-house innovations, including green cleaning products and gourmet dog treats. Browne pushed ahead, but she found that the crucial support from her most important stakeholder, the Lucas County Board of Developmental Disabilities, was weakening. As the frustrations of managing the changes necessary for survival in an increasingly poor economy accumulated, the case begins and ends with the CEO contemplating the next steps she needs to take, and the likelihood they will be successful.

Case Authors : Denise M. Tanguay, Mary E. Vielhaber

Topic : Strategy & Execution

Related Areas : Influence, Organizational structure, Social enterprise

Calculating Net Present Value (NPV) at 6% for Lott Industries: The CEO Fights for Survival Case Study

Years              Cash Flow     Net Cash Flow     Cumulative    
Cash Flow
Discount Rate
@ 6 %
Cash Flows
Year 0 (10017285) -10017285 - -
Year 1 3453617 -6563668 3453617 0.9434 3258129
Year 2 3967077 -2596591 7420694 0.89 3530684
Year 3 3945160 1348569 11365854 0.8396 3312432
Year 4 3251586 4600155 14617440 0.7921 2575561
TOTAL 14617440 12676807

The Net Present Value at 6% discount rate is 2659522

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

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

Formula and Steps to Calculate Net Present Value (NPV) of Lott Industries: The CEO Fights for Survival

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 Strategy & Execution 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 Lott Browne 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 Lott Browne 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 (10017285) -10017285 - -
Year 1 3453617 -6563668 3453617 0.8696 3003145
Year 2 3967077 -2596591 7420694 0.7561 2999680
Year 3 3945160 1348569 11365854 0.6575 2594007
Year 4 3251586 4600155 14617440 0.5718 1859105
TOTAL 10455937

The Net NPV after 4 years is 438652

(10455937 - 10017285 )

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 (10017285) -10017285 - -
Year 1 3453617 -6563668 3453617 0.8333 2878014
Year 2 3967077 -2596591 7420694 0.6944 2754915
Year 3 3945160 1348569 11365854 0.5787 2283079
Year 4 3251586 4600155 14617440 0.4823 1568087
TOTAL 9484095

The Net NPV after 4 years is -533190

At 20% discount rate the NPV is negative (9484095 - 10017285 ) so ideally we can't select the project if macro and micro factors don't allow financial managers of Lott Browne 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 Lott Browne has a NPV value higher than Zero then finance managers at Lott Browne 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 Lott Browne, then the stock price of the Lott Browne 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 Lott Browne 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.

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.

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

What can impact the cash flow of the project.

Understanding of risks involved in the project.

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

Denise M. Tanguay, Mary E. Vielhaber (2018), "Lott Industries: The CEO Fights for Survival Harvard Business Review Case Study. Published by HBR Publications.