A three-way financial model is a type of financial model that can be used to evaluate the financial performance of a company. It is a very useful tool to help business owners and financial professionals, who need to have detailed understanding of the financial performances and cash flow of the company. This type of model includes the balance sheet, income statement, and cash flow statement to get a more comprehensive view of the financial standing of a business.

The purpose of establishing robust three-way financial models is to ensure accurate financial forecasts. With this type of model, businesses are able to quickly develop comprehensive and dynamic financial plans that can be used to evaluate a variety of factors including short-term investments, long-term growth, and capital requirements.

Key Takeaways

  • A three-way financial model provides a more comprehensive overview of the company's finances.
  • This type of model includes the balance sheet, income statement, and cash flow statement.
  • This model can be used to evaluate a variety of factors including short-term investments, long-term growth, and capital requirements.

Steps for Creating Robust Financial Models

Developing three-way financial models that are robust is critical when producing reliable forecasts. Financial modeling allows you to estimate the financial performance of a business or project. This requires that the model be structurally sound and robust enough to support the necessary analysis. To ensure that the model functions correctly, as well as efficiently and accurately, there are certain steps that should be considered.

Clarify Modeling Design

The first step in the process of developing a robust three-way financial model is to clarify the overall design of the model. The purpose of doing this is to ensure that the model is designed to meet the specific needs of the business or project that is being modeled. This can include defining which time frames will be modeled, what type of information will be included, as well as defining the overall structure.

Construct Input Assumptions

Once the design of the model has been determined, the next step is to create input assumptions. These assumptions will define the inputs of the model, such as forecasts for sales, prices, expenses, and other relevant information. It is important to remember that the assumptions should be based on reliable data that is relevant to the modeling project.

Develop Financial Statements

The third step in creating a robust three-way financial model is to develop the financial statements for the model. This includes creating the balance sheet, income statement, and cash flow statement. It is important to ensure that the financial statements are accurately reflected in the model and will produce accurate results.

Define Calculation Linkages

Once the financial statements have been created, the next step is to define the calculation linkages. This means creating the formulas and relationships that link the financial statements in the model. This is the process of translating the financial statements into numbers and equations in order to build a dynamic model.

Generate Cash Flow Statements

The fifth step in creating a robust three-way financial model is to generate the cash flow statement. This statement is an important part of the model and should be designed to accurately reflect the financial performance of the business or project. It is important to ensure that the cash flow statement is dynamic and can be adjusted as assumptions change.

Conduct Quality Control

The final step in the process of creating a robust three-way financial model is to conduct quality control. This is an important step that should not be overlooked, as it can help to ensure that the model will function correctly. During this process, the model should be thoroughly tested to ensure that the assumptions are valid and that the calculations are correct. After the quality control process has been completed, the model should be ready for use.

Benefits of Three-Way Financial Models

Building robust and comprehensive three-way financial models can be an incredibly beneficial process for those business owners looking to increase value, maximize efficiency, and make informed financial decisions. Here are 3 key benefits of developing and using three-way financial models.

Incorporates Wealth of Data

Three-way financial modeling incorporates a wealth of data that can be incredibly useful in making informed decisions related to the health of your business. This type of financial modeling introduces metrics related to income, expenses, investments, financial projections, and any other important measurements that you may need for a deeper understanding. By having access to this data, business owners have an all-in-one view of their short-term and long-term goals, their current standing, and what key changes need to be made in order to reach the desired outcome.

Efficient Decision Making

People often make financial decisions without sufficient data or evidence, which can lead to mistakes. By investing in a three-way financial model, you can ensure that your decisions are well informed. This type of financial modeling allows you to look at the situation from multiple angles, incorporating data such as cash flow, balance sheets, capital budgets, and debt management. Having these angles of view gives you an edge when making financial decisions, allowing you to make those decisions with greater confidence.

Identify Opportunities

Three-way financial modeling also allows you to identify new opportunities. The wealth of data that you have access to with this type of modeling goes beyond simply looking at current situations. It gives you the ability to broaden your view and identify previously unseen opportunities that may prove to be beneficial to your business. With this type of modeling, you can effectively anticipate future trends and capitalize on new opportunities that may otherwise go unnoticed.

Building three-way financial models can provide a huge range of benefits for a business. From making informed decisions to identifying future opportunities, financial modeling can be beneficial for all types of businesses. With the right data and information, three-way financial modeling can be a powerful tool in increasing the value of your business.

Limitations of Three-Way Financial Models

Three-way financial models provide invaluable insight into the business processes and their respective financials. While these models are incredibly useful, they do come with certain limitations that need to be considered before implementation.

Requires Attention to Details

Creating robust three-way financial models requires a great deal of attention to details. Even the slightest miscalculation or discrepancy can lead to inaccurate results and unreliable insights. This means that more time and effort needs to be invested into the data gathering and analysis process to make sure the results are accurate and reliable.


Creating three-way financial models can be an expensive exercise. The resource and budget requirements needed to accurately and reliably create these models can be prohibitive for small-medium businesses and startups. This means that these models might not be an option for certain businesses due to cost and budget limitations.

Prone to Errors

Three-way financial models are prone to errors due to the complexity of the models and the amount of data needed. Despite the extensive data gathering and analysis processes, mistakes can easily be made which can lead to inaccurate results and wrong conclusions. This means that businesses must take extra caution when developing three-way financial models to make sure information is accurate and reliable.

Tips for Efficient Three-Way Financial Modeling

Allocate Time and Key Resources

Developing robust three-way financial models requires ample time and resources. As such, it is important to assign key personnel to lead and develop the model, with adequate time to test and debug, and associated support for core tasks such as data collection. Additionally, it is important to ensure all resources are available and allocated for completing the task in a timely manner.

Establish Appropriate Structures

When forming a three-way financial model, the first step should always be to establish the appropriate structure relevant to the organization. Establishing a structure that incorporates the organization's planning, budgeting and forecasting processes, as well as its underlying data sources, is key to constructing an effective financial model. Furthermore, an appropriate structure should include feedback loops that allow for scenario testing, enabling the modeler to understand how proposed decisions will influence the whole system.

Input, Analyze Validated Data

Once the structure and feedback loops of the three-way financial model have been established, the next step is to begin inputting and analyzing validated data. This is a particularly important step in the modeling process, as it is imperative to ensure that the data being used is accurate and up-to-date to ensure accurate and reliable results. Additionally, it is important to develop meaningful metrics to evaluate outcomes, and track the performance of the model.

Utilize Automation

Exploiting automation capabilities in three-way modeling can be a great way to save time and ensure accuracy. Automation can be used for tasks such as data collection and analysis, and for automating calculations to help reduce the potential for errors. However, it is important to ensure all automation is rigorously tested, to ensure the accuracy and reliability of the model.

Assess Assumptions and Uncertainty

In any financial model, it is important to review and assess the assumptions and uncertainties that affect the model. This requires modelers to understand the underlying factors driving the model, how those assumptions and uncertainties could evolve over time, and how they could influence model outcomes. Additionally, it is important to analyze potential risks associated with the model, and develop measures to take in the event of a risk or uncertainty affecting the financial model.

Best Practices for Robust Three-Way Financial Modeling

Provide Comprehensive Documentation

When constructing and using a three-way financial model, having comprehensive documentation is key. This documentation should not only include a detailed summary of the process of creating the model, but also explanations of all inputs, assumptions, and output. All of this information should be easy to access so that relevant stakeholders can understand the model’s structure and purpose.

Review Regularly and Frequently

It is important to set aside regular intervals where you go back and review the functionality of the model and assess its ongoing accuracy. This review should involve verifying that the inputs and assumptions are up to date and relevant and that any new variables or changes have been documented in the statement of assumptions. Simulating various scenarios may be beneficial to ensure the model is producing satisfactory results.

Use Sensitivity Analysis

Sensitivity analysis uses various data sources to measure the expected effects of changes in conditions. This can help identify any potential bottlenecks in the model so that issues can be addressed. It can also help to identify which factors have the biggest impact on the model’s results. This can be useful when trying to identify areas of greatest risk and potential opportunities.

Perform Stress Tests

When performing a stress test, you can identify the model’s potential weaknesses by using alternative variables or changing existing ones. This could be as simple as replacing the base case assumptions used in the model with more extreme scenarios. Stress tests will help identify how the model behaves under times of duress, making it easier to identify any potential areas for improvement.

Audit the Model

Regular audits of the model should be conducted to ensure that the model is functioning properly and accurately reflecting the desired results. This can involve reviewing the current results versus historical results, as well as any external conditions. Any discrepancies should be addressed immediately and the audit should become part of the model’s overall development and review cycle.


Developing a robust three-way financial model is a great way to ensure your business is on a path to success. By taking into account revenue streams, expenses, and other variables, you can ensure that your financial model accurately reflects your business’s current and future financial situation. Furthermore, by utilizing a proactive approach to creating a three-way financial model, you can avoid surprises and keep your business afloat in difficult times.

To develop a robust three-way financial model, it is important to be aware of and adhere to best practices. This includes creating comprehensive financial statements, utilizing a wide array of buffers and flexible assumptions, and creating a version of the model that will remain unaffected by changes in data and assumptions. Additionally, by utilizing sensitivity analysis and scenario planning, your model can remain up to date and accurate in any given situation. Finally, by continually monitoring and evaluating your three-way financial model, you can ensure that it is prepared to handle any situation that may arise.

In conclusion, by following these steps when creating a three-way financial model, you can ensure that your business is prepared to thrive. As the world of finance and business evolves and changes, a robust and proactive three-way financial model will become increasingly important in order to maintain success. Therefore, taking the time to develop a well-defined three-way financial model is invaluable and will lead to positive results in the long run.

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