Serena and Lily 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 Serena and Lily case study

At Oak Spring University, we provide corporate level professional Net Present Value (NPV) case study solution. Serena and Lily case study is a Harvard Business School (HBR) case study written by H. Irving Grousbeck, Sara Rosenthal. The Serena and Lily (referred as “Lily Serena” 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, Collaboration, Hiring.

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 Serena and Lily Case Study

The Serena and Lily case describes three challenging situations faced by Lily Kanter, CEO of Serena and Lily, a luxury home goods company. The first vignette involves Marta Calfee, one of Lily's first and most dedicated employees. As the company grows, Marta takes on increasing responsibilities, but it soon becomes clear that her title, compensation and domain are all greater than her actual capabilities, and Lily must determine how to scale back or let go one of her most loyal and trusted employees. In the second vignette, Lily deals with an extremely challenging investor/board member whose abrasive style and conflicting ideas about the strategic direction of the company threaten to severely hinder the company's progress. Finally, Lily is trying to recruit a highly valuable consultant to a permanent position at the company, but must figure out how to compete against a lucrative counter-offer from a highly esteemed retailer.

Case Authors : H. Irving Grousbeck, Sara Rosenthal

Topic : Leadership & Managing People

Related Areas : Collaboration, Hiring

Calculating Net Present Value (NPV) at 6% for Serena and Lily Case Study

Years              Cash Flow     Net Cash Flow     Cumulative    
Cash Flow
Discount Rate
@ 6 %
Cash Flows
Year 0 (10007293) -10007293 - -
Year 1 3468648 -6538645 3468648 0.9434 3272309
Year 2 3978845 -2559800 7447493 0.89 3541158
Year 3 3962949 1403149 11410442 0.8396 3327368
Year 4 3222373 4625522 14632815 0.7921 2552421
TOTAL 14632815 12693257

The Net Present Value at 6% discount rate is 2685964

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

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 Lily Serena 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. Lily Serena 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 Serena and Lily

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 Lily Serena 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 Lily Serena 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 (10007293) -10007293 - -
Year 1 3468648 -6538645 3468648 0.8696 3016216
Year 2 3978845 -2559800 7447493 0.7561 3008578
Year 3 3962949 1403149 11410442 0.6575 2605703
Year 4 3222373 4625522 14632815 0.5718 1842402
TOTAL 10472900

The Net NPV after 4 years is 465607

(10472900 - 10007293 )

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 (10007293) -10007293 - -
Year 1 3468648 -6538645 3468648 0.8333 2890540
Year 2 3978845 -2559800 7447493 0.6944 2763087
Year 3 3962949 1403149 11410442 0.5787 2293373
Year 4 3222373 4625522 14632815 0.4823 1553999
TOTAL 9500999

The Net NPV after 4 years is -506294

At 20% discount rate the NPV is negative (9500999 - 10007293 ) so ideally we can't select the project if macro and micro factors don't allow financial managers of Lily Serena 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 Lily Serena has a NPV value higher than Zero then finance managers at Lily Serena 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 Lily Serena, then the stock price of the Lily Serena 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 Lily Serena 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 will be a multi year spillover effect of various taxation regulations.

What can impact the cash flow of 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

H. Irving Grousbeck, Sara Rosenthal (2018), "Serena and Lily Harvard Business Review Case Study. Published by HBR Publications.