The Three-Way Financial Model, also known as a value triangle, is a tool that helps identify and manage the financial value of an organization or project. It's used to evaluate the cost-benefit of potential initiatives, make cost and budgeting decisions, and calculate risks. With this powerful tool in your pocket, you can effectively plan the financial outcomes of a project before committing to resources.

However, while a Three-Way Financial Model can be a powerful tool, it can also be difficult to manage if misused or applied incorrectly. In this blog post, we'll cover the most common mistakes that are made when using the model, so that you can avoid them and reap the full benefits.

Summary of Common Mistakes

  • Not considering external factors when evaluating risks
  • Not accounting for unforeseen circumstances
  • Not taking into account the effect of inflation
  • Not fully understanding the costs and benefits of the project
  • Not considering multiple future scenarios

Key Takeaways

  • Do not ignore external factors when evaluating risks
  • Anticipate unforeseen circumstances
  • Factor inflation into cost and benefits
  • Comprehensively understand the costs and rewards of the project
  • Prepare for multiple future scenarios

Determining the Correct Assumptions

Using the Three-Way Financial Model can be a great way to make sure that your financial projections are accurate and up-to-date. However, there are a few common mistakes to keep in mind when using this model. The following outlines two of the most common mistakes to avoid when using this model.

Not Double-Checking the Calculation Assumptions

Using the Three-Way Financial Model, it is important to double-check all of the calculation assumptions before finalizing results. This includes checking all inputs, including inflation, interest rate, sales figures, and any other variables that could impact the bottom line. It is also important to double-check all operations, such as calculating interest, taxes, and depreciation. Doing this double-check can help ensure that the results of your financial calculations are accurate.

Not Defining All Necessary Variables

In order for the Three-Way Financial Model to be effective, it is essential to define all of the necessary variables. This includes defining the time frame, revenues and expenses, taxes, capital investments, and any other information necessary to calculate the projected balance sheet. Without defining all of the necessary variables, the results may be inaccurate and could lead to under- or over-projection of the bottom line. Taking the time to define these variables will allow for the most accurate results.

Being Thorough with the Financial Model

The Three-Way Financial Model is a powerful tool that can be used to gain insight into potential financial scenarios. However, without proper understanding of the model and its capabilities, mistakes can be easily made which can lead to erroneous results. To avoid these mistakes, it is important to be thorough when using the Three-Way Financial Model.

Not Calculating All Possible Scenarios

One common mistake that is often made when using the Three-Way Financial Model is failing to calculate all possible scenarios. The model has the capacity to handle numerous scenarios which can provide a better understanding of the financial situation. However, if all scenarios are not calculated, then important details may be overlooked. To ensure that all scenarios are properly accounted for, it is recommended to create a list of all possible scenarios and calculate each one individually.

Not Testing Multiple Investment Strategies

Another mistake that is often made with the Three-Way Financial Model is failing to test multiple investment strategies. The model can be used to simulate different investment strategies in order to identify the most profitable strategy. However, if just one investment strategy is tested without any alternatives, then there is no way of knowing if there may be a more profitable strategy which could have been identified. To avoid this mistake, it is important to try multiple different investment strategies and compare their respective results.

  • Calculate all possible scenarios when using the Three-Way Financial Model.
  • Test multiple investment strategies in order to identify the most profitable one.

Allocating Resources Carefully

Using the three-way financial model comes with its own particular set of challenges. To ensure the best results and make sure your investment is worthwhile, it's important to make sure you're devoting the right amount of time and resources to the model.

Not Devoting Adequate Time and Resources to Modeling

The three-way financial model needs to be given the time and resources it deserves. Spending too little time and resources while constructing the model or projecting outcomes can lead to an inaccurate or incomplete picture of future finances. Therefore, it's important to plan accordingly and allocate enough time and resources to create and maintain the model properly.

Not Preparing for Unforeseen Circumstances

No matter how carefully one plans and models their finances, there is still a chance for unseen obstacles and financial changes. It is important to set aside time and resources to prepare for unforeseen circumstances. This could include researching best practices and new technologies, having an expert review your model, and setting up flexibility within the model should any external or internal changes occur.

Comparing Shareholder Interests

When using the three-way financial model, it is important to compare the interests of shareholders. Shareholders have different obligations and expectations than lenders and creditors. Understanding the distinctions between shareholders and lenders can help guide decisions when using the three-way financial model.

Not Considering Equity Investments vs. Debt Financing

Shareholders are primarily concerned with equity investments, while lenders are primarily concerned with debt financing. Equity investments provide ownership and allow shareholders to receive a share of the potential profits or losses of the business. Debt financing is a loan that must be repaid with interest. Understanding the differences between equity investments and debt financing is essential for making informed decisions when using the three-way financial model.

Not Understanding Shareholders' Long-Term Objectives

Shareholders have long-term objectives that drive their decisions. Knowing these objectives will help determine if a given strategy or financial model is aligning with shareholder interests. The objectives of shareholders may include:

  • Maximizing return on investment
  • Minimizing risk
  • Increasing value
  • Ensuring financial sustainability

By understanding the objectives and interests of shareholders, it is possible to make informed decisions when using the three-way financial model.

Selecting the Right Modeling Tool

Selecting the right modeling tool is one of the most important steps when considering building a three-way financial model. Choosing the wrong modeling tool can lead to costly oversights, as well as damaging the accuracy of your model. In order to properly select the right modeling tool, it is essential to keep in mind the following mistakes.

Not Choosing the Most Suitable Solutions for Financial Modeling

Choosing the correct financial modeling tool is a critical assessment that requires the individual to consider multiple factors. Software specific to financial modeling can make the process of building sophisticated models easier and faster, and more likely to yield more precise results.

It is important to thoroughly research and consider all of the options: general-purpose software such as spreadsheets, as well as industry-specific software such as Commercial Off-the-Shelf (COTS) or Software-as-a-Service (SaaS). For example, spreadsheets programs allow users to generate reports quickly, but they may not provide the user with the most sophisticated financial modeling tools. It is essential to ensure the modeling tool you select allows you to accurately reflect the current reality of your industry.

Not Keeping Model Parameters Relevant to the Model's Purpose

When constructing your model, make sure to keep the model parameters relevant to the model's purpose. Ideally, your financial model should capture the key risks and drivers of business performance. It should also be able to accurately forecast for the effects of future market conditions on the business.

In order to keep the model parameters relevant to the model's purpose, it is important to make sure the assumptions used for inputting data into the model are reasonable. This process involves not only selecting the most suitable modeling tool, but also keeping the model up-to-date with the changing market conditions. Additionally, it is important to ensure that the data used to build the model is accurate and timely.


The Three-Way Financial Model is a great tool for analyzing the financial performance of a business, but it is important to be aware of the common mistakes that can prevent an accurate analysis. This article has explored seven common mistakes that should be avoided when using the model.

Summary of Common Mistakes to Avoid with the Three-Way Model

The following mistakes are key to remember when using the Three-Way Financial Model:

  • Failing to identify and incorporate the three parts: Operating, Investing, and Financing.
  • Neglecting to create an accurate cash flow statement.
  • Misjudging the financial statement impact of capital expenditure decisions.
  • Treating the three parts of the financial model in isolation.
  • Taking an overly optimistic view of the impact of non-cash items.
  • Neglecting to analyze the underlying assumptions behind the model.
  • Not taking into account potential external factors that can influence the model.

Recommendation to Exercise Caution When Handling the Three-Way Model

The Three-Way Financial Model is a powerful tool, but it must be used with caution. It is important to consider the potential mistakes detailed in this article and understand their impact on financial statement accuracy. It should always be used as a starting point to understand the financial performance of a business, rather than a comprehensive result.

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