How to Write an ATM Business Plan

So, you’re going to start an ATM business? That’s great! But, you need to have an ATM business plan before you dive in.

As businesses go, an ATM business is relatively simple. There’s not a lot of equipment to maintain. You don’t have to stock any physical inventory. And, you can run the business yourself, if you want.

However, an ATM business plan is still very important, despite that simplicity.

Writing an ATM business plan helps you map out the first years of running your business. And, your ATM business plan forces you to think about all the aspects of running an ATM business, helps you anticipate costs and problems, and creates a checklist for getting your business off the ground.

Additionally, having a written business plan can help secure loans (if you need them) and bank accounts.

Really, your business plan is the first asset you build for your business.

So, let’s get started.

The anatomy of an ATM business plan

An ATM business has all the same high level considerations of any other business. So, the contents of your business don’t need to be special. Your contents page can look just like this:

  1. Executive summary.
  2. Company summary and funding needs.
  3. Products and services.
  4. Marketing plan and analysis.
  5. Management team.
  6. Financial plan and forecasts.

There will be subsections for each of these sections. But, everything will fall under one of these umbrellas.

Your business plan doesn’t need to be a manifesto. As you add the information for each section, a good tactic is to use short headings followed by bullet points. Use the question as the heading, and list the answers to each question in the bullets. That way you can easily reference your business plan when you need it.

These are the questions you need to answer as you fill out each section.

Executive summary

There are three main subsections for your objective summary:

Objectives

The objectives don’t have to be anything super corporate. It’s your business. What do you want your business to do for you in the first year? The first two years? The first five years?

The purpose of your objectives is to set measurable goal posts, so that you know when your business has achieved what you want and if you’re meeting your timeline.

Mission statement

The mission statement is related to what your business does for your customers. The mission should be a direct line to your objectives. What will you do for your customers that will help your business achieve your objectives?

Keys to success

What are the most important things that you’ll need to do to make your business successful?

Be very honest with yourself here. You’re going to be doing most of the work in your business. So, there may be some personal development that’s critical to making your business successful. Or maybe you must secure some additional funding before you can do anything else.

Your keys to success should be mandatory things, the non-negotiables that make the whole thing work.

Company summary and funding needs

Your company summary and funding needs defines who’s going to do what and how you’re going to cover startup and operating expenses.

Company summary

Obviously, you need to define your own responsibilities. But, also define what responsibilities you’re going to outsource.

  • Are you going to hire a vaulting service for your ATMs?
  • Will you hire someone to perform routine maintenance and cleaning?
  • Are you going to perform every installation yourself or have the installation done for you?
  • Will you pay for accounting and bookkeeping or learn to do it yourself?
  • Which ATM processor will you use? Will you need to pay processing fees?

You don’t have to do everything. But, everything needs to get done. And, you need to plan out who’s going to do it, and how you’re going to pay for it…

Funding needs

Startup costs

The most obvious funding needs are your startup costs. Typically, you can budget about $5000 for each ATM machine. That covers the cost of the ATM itself and the cash you need to stock it.

However, $5000 is just a general guideline. Identify which ATM machines you’re going to purchase and plan out how much cash you’re going to put in them. That way you can calculate specific costs.

ATM machines vary in price. And, you need to fill them with more money if you want to refill them less often. Define these variables, so you can very precisely define your funding needs. You’re less likely to run into surprises this way.

Operating costs

Also, calculate your operating costs. Be very specific in this category, too. Think about the gas and vehicle maintenance, if you’re driving to restock your ATMs. Include the cost of vaulting your ATM machines, if you’re paying a vaulting service. And, remember to include payroll if you’ll be hiring anyone.

Business formation costs

Lastly, consider the costs of starting a company (C-Corp, S-Corp, LLC, etc.). You can operate ATM machines as a sole proprietor, without filing any paperwork with the state. But, working as an individual, rather than a business, has some drawbacks.

First, you’ll be personally liable for anything that goes wrong. Raising a corporate veil is outside the scope of this post. But, if you’re operating as an individual, everything you own could be at risk.

Also, it’s very difficult to get a business bank account without a business tax identification number. Actually, it might be impossible (but we’re not bankers or lawyers).

Without getting too far into the legal weeds, suffice to say that owning and operating ATM machines without a corporate entity will be very tricky. It’s better to just start a company.

Corporate startup costs vary from state to state. But, you should figure at least $1000 to cover the filing and state fees. But, again, do some research to get precise numbers.

The purpose of this exercise is to determine exactly how much money you will need to get the business started, and how much it will cost to keep things running. That way you know how much you need to borrow, if you’re borrowing your startup capital. And, you’ll know how much revenue you need to keep the ship above water.

Products and services

This one is pretty straightforward for an ATM business: you provide ATM machines to businesses and events.

But, get more specific than that.

  • How much will your transaction fees be?
  • What will you do as part of your ATM services?
  • Will you provide additional products with your ATM machines (i.e. ATM toppers that advertise for businesses)?

As you negotiate contracts with business owners, you’ll find that each ATM placement has its nuances.

The purpose of clearly defining your products and services is to establish boundaries. You need to know what you will definitely NOT do.

Once you have an agreement and a contract to do something, you have to do it. So, you need to plan out your services. That way you don’t end up bound to a contract that’s not good for you or your business.

Having a clear picture of how your services are structured will also help you with the next step.

Marketing plan and analysis

The target market for ATM businesses is fairly predefined. Or, at least more predefined than many other business markets.

However, it’s still a good idea to narrow your focus and gather some intelligence about the businesses you’ll be targeting. There are a couple of ways that you can select a target market for your ATM business:

    1. Focus on a certain area. If you live in a populated area, you can focus on the businesses near your residence. That way your ATM route will be familiar and maybe even walkable. Or, you can just focus your efforts on an area with a lot of eligible businesses.
    2. Focus on a certain type of business. In reality, an ATM owner can help almost any business by providing ATM services. But, if you narrow your scope to a certain type of business—like casinos or gas stations—you can learn about the business, identify some benefits that are unique to those types of businesses, and position yourself as a specialist in that industry.

This may seem counterintuitive. If you only focus on one area or type of business, you’re missing a lot of opportunities, right? Not quite.

First, you can always expand in to serving new businesses and new areas as your ATM business grows.

But, narrowing your focus also works as a sales lever. You can build a unique selling proposition (USP)  around being nearby and therefore easy to reach. Or you can use your specialization in helping certain types of businesses as your unique selling proposition.

In short, focusing on a smaller target market makes it easier for you to get your first ATM placements. You can always widen your scope as your ATM business grows.

Management team

The management team might be just you. But, if you have additional team members, define their roles and responsibilities. Don’t leave anyone out.

This is a bit different than defining who you were going to hire. Now, you need to define what parts of the business each person is responsible for and how you’ll measure success.

If you’re the only manager. That’s fine. Define responsibilities and standards for yourself. Starting a business always involves at least a little bit of personal development.

Financial plan and forecasts

The most important part of this section is ensuring that you have a plan to cover all of your expenses and pay off any debts the business has. There are three parts to developing this plan.

Income statement

Your income statement is just a statement that shows your business profits and losses. Before you start a business, there’s obviously not going to be a lot here. But, be sure to prepare one and keep it updated. Most accounting software will run an income statement for you.

Balance sheet

Your balance sheet shows your assets and liabilities. Your ATM machines are assets. If you took out a loan to buy your first ATM, that loan is a liability.

Setting up a balance sheet is pretty straightforward. And, most accounting software will help you construct a balance sheet.

The general rule for balance sheets is that anything which generates revenue is an asset. Anything that does not generate revenue is a liability.

Use a balance sheet template if you want to manually create your balance sheet.

Cash flow statement

Your cash flow statement just shows where money is coming into your business and where money is going out. This enables you to get a high level view of your income and expenses.

Your account software can also help you with this. But, you can use a cash flow statement template to write out your own cash flow statement.

The point of putting together all these reports is first to prepare for tracking your business finances. Things get messy really fast if you have no idea where your money is coming from or where it’s going. And, building these reports once you’ve been operating for several months is a nightmare.

But, as you construct these reports, you’ll be able to estimate your projected revenue and establish a plan for paying off all your debts, coving your operating expenses, and maximizing profits.

As a note, most successful ATM business owners report that they make about $500 per ATM machine each month. Your numbers may be different. But, $500 per ATM per month is a good starting point for estimating your revenue.

It’s just like personal finance. You need to have a plan for what you’re going to do with your money.

One last thing…

That’s it. Your business plan is all done. There’s just one more thing. And, this is the fun part…

Go back to the cover page of your business plan. Think up a name for your business and add it to the cover page. It might seem weird to do this last. But, it’s a lot easier to think up a clever, relevant business name if you know everything about your business.

Now you’re done. And, it’s time to start putting your plan into action.

Copy and paste the following text into an MS Word or Google Doc to create a template for your business plan:

[ATM BUSINESS NAME]

  1. Executive summary
    1. Objectives
    2. Mission statement
    3. Keys to success
  2. Company summary and funding needs
    1. Company summary
    2. Funding needs
  3. Products and services
    1. ATM service packages
  4. Marketing plan and analysis
    1. Target areas and business types
  5. Management team
  6. Financial plan and forecasts
    1. Income statement
    2. Balance sheet
    3. Cash flow statement

Then fill out each section to write your ATM business plan (remember to add the name LAST). Then, all you have to do is get it done.

If you need help executing your ATM business plan, become an ATMDepot member to get training on how to start and run your ATM business.

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