Shanghai Diligence Law Firm, Chinese Version 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 Shanghai Diligence Law Firm, Chinese Version case study

At Oak Spring University, we provide corporate level professional Net Present Value (NPV) case study solution. Shanghai Diligence Law Firm, Chinese Version case study is a Harvard Business School (HBR) case study written by Robert G. Eccles, Catherine Zhang. The Shanghai Diligence Law Firm, Chinese Version (referred as “Compensation Firm” from here on) case study provides evaluation & decision scenario in field of Leadership & Managing People. It also touches upon business topics such as - Value proposition, Compensation, Developing employees, Employee retention, Entrepreneurial management, Growth strategy, Marketing, Motivating people.

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 Shanghai Diligence Law Firm, Chinese Version Case Study

Shanghai Diligence Law Firm, started in January 2006, is a rapidly growing law firm in China's burgeoning legal services market. In addition to the usual challenges facing all professional service firms (picking and retaining talent and building a desired client portfolio), the firm faces some challenges and opportunities that are unique to its setting in China and the fact that the firm is not yet three years old. The legal profession in China is a new and rapidly growing one with a large number of small firms all trying to carve out a distinctive niche for themselves. One of the partners in the firm, Joseph Shang, has created an innovative compensation system he calls the "A-B-C-D Model" which enables even the most junior associates to earn compensation for bringing in new business. This model is a kind of hybrid between the typical compensation system found in a Chinese law firm and those found in U.K. and U.S. law firms. The goal of this approach to compensation is to enable the firm to get and keep promising lawyers while also giving them an incentive to help grow the business. Somewhat unusual for a typical law firm, or any type of professional service firm, this compensation model is only used in Shang's practice. The founder and CEO, Chenyao Wu, has his own version of an "A-B-C-D Model," and discussions are taking place about what the firm should be doing about compensation. In addition to compensation, the firm is grappling with issues regarding divergent views amongst the partners, building a brand in a very competitive marketplace and the stability of the core team.

Case Authors : Robert G. Eccles, Catherine Zhang

Topic : Leadership & Managing People

Related Areas : Compensation, Developing employees, Employee retention, Entrepreneurial management, Growth strategy, Marketing, Motivating people

Calculating Net Present Value (NPV) at 6% for Shanghai Diligence Law Firm, Chinese Version Case Study

Years              Cash Flow     Net Cash Flow     Cumulative    
Cash Flow
Discount Rate
@ 6 %
Cash Flows
Year 0 (10025497) -10025497 - -
Year 1 3454067 -6571430 3454067 0.9434 3258554
Year 2 3981974 -2589456 7436041 0.89 3543943
Year 3 3970094 1380638 11406135 0.8396 3333367
Year 4 3222259 4602897 14628394 0.7921 2552331
TOTAL 14628394 12688195

The Net Present Value at 6% discount rate is 2662698

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

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 Compensation Firm 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. Compensation Firm 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 Shanghai Diligence Law Firm, Chinese Version

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 Leadership & Managing People 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 Compensation Firm 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 Compensation Firm 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 (10025497) -10025497 - -
Year 1 3454067 -6571430 3454067 0.8696 3003537
Year 2 3981974 -2589456 7436041 0.7561 3010944
Year 3 3970094 1380638 11406135 0.6575 2610401
Year 4 3222259 4602897 14628394 0.5718 1842337
TOTAL 10467219

The Net NPV after 4 years is 441722

(10467219 - 10025497 )

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 (10025497) -10025497 - -
Year 1 3454067 -6571430 3454067 0.8333 2878389
Year 2 3981974 -2589456 7436041 0.6944 2765260
Year 3 3970094 1380638 11406135 0.5787 2297508
Year 4 3222259 4602897 14628394 0.4823 1553944
TOTAL 9495101

The Net NPV after 4 years is -530396

At 20% discount rate the NPV is negative (9495101 - 10025497 ) so ideally we can't select the project if macro and micro factors don't allow financial managers of Compensation Firm 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 Compensation Firm has a NPV value higher than Zero then finance managers at Compensation Firm 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 Compensation Firm, then the stock price of the Compensation Firm 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 Compensation Firm 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 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 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 can impact the cash flow of the project.

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

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

Robert G. Eccles, Catherine Zhang (2018), "Shanghai Diligence Law Firm, Chinese Version Harvard Business Review Case Study. Published by HBR Publications.