Posts

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.

An ATM Business Can Save Your Marriage (It’s Not as Crazy as It Sounds)

The title statement may sound outlandish. But, consider these stats about gray divorce (divorce among couples over 50):

  1. Gray divorce has doubled since 1990.
  2. Gray divorce has increased by 700% since 1960.

Those are startling numbers. And, it probably seems unlikely that an ATM business is the solution. But, if you look at why the gray divorce rate has skyrocketed, it becomes clear how an ATM business can help.

Here’s a quick story to illustrate the most common cause of gray divorce:

A young couple meets, dates, and gets married early in life—shortly after college. For the next few decades, they spend most of their time building careers, raising children, and preparing for retirement. There’s a lot to do, and they’re both happy to be doing it together.

Then it comes time to retire. Suddenly, the shared goals are gone. And the man has dedicated the majority of his life working. He spent very little time building relationships or hobbies. Or maybe both of the people in this couple spent very little time pursuing things other than work.

The struggle is that retired people often find themselves with nothing to do. And, this can severely strain marriages. When all the work is done, it’s easy to feel that there’s no need for a team anymore.

But there’s more: having nothing to do is no fun. Retirement is supposed to be enjoyable—at least as enjoyable as a fulfilling career, if not more enjoyable. So, it’s easy to feel unhappy in retirement.

That’s what’s caused this spike in gray divorce: a lack of shared goals and things to do in retirement.

An ATM business solves that problem.

How an ATM business can save your marriage from gray divorce

Being an ATM owner is not a way to get rich quick. When you start an ATM business, you’re playing the long game. And, this long game affords people opportunities to build relationships and develop a routine that can sustain them throughout retirement.

Older Couple having CoffeeBuilding relationships

One of the most important aspects of owning an ATM business is building a successful route. An ATM route is just the common path you take to refill your ATM machines with cash and ensure they’re in good shape.

The benefit of this ATM route for older people is that it provides a place where you show up regularly and get to know people. Socially, it’s like a bar (but far more productive and profitable).

Additionally, each ATM machine will be located in or near a business, and maybe even a bar if that’s something you’d enjoy. And, you have to develop a relationship with that business owner, because your ATM is on their property. And, these business owners may want to be involved, to some small degree, in the operation of that ATM machine (coupons, promotions, lowered credit card fees for them, etc.).

Developing quality relationships with these landlords, business owners, and property owners is key if you want to have an ATM business that’s all about service. And, your ATM business should be all about service. That will make your business successful and will ensure you keep your customers happy so they’ll stay with you for a long, long, time.

But, more than being an important part of your ATM business, these relationships give you people to do things with once you’ve retired. Your ATM business creates a circle of friends that will last a lifetime.

Productive routines

An ATM business also solves the problem of idle time in retirement.

Once you’ve set up your ATM route, you’ll obviously need to run that route regularly to keep your ATM machines up and running. This creates a routine that helps retain a sense of purpose and offers shared goals for you and your partner.

But, the best thing about the routine of an ATM business is that your routine can be as busy or as minimal as you’d like. If you want, you could work nearly full time in your ATM business. Or, it can be as part-time as you like.

And, you’re not just keeping busy. Your ATM business gives you productive work. It’s even better than a hobby, in many ways.

Reaching retirementOlder Retired Couple Enjoying Retirement Early via the ATM Business

Although this focuses most on how an ATM business can protect you from a gray divorce, an ATM business can also help you stay married until retirement.

As we mentioned earlier, an ATM business is not a get rich quick scheme. It’s a long game.

But, running an ATM business can provide reliable income that doesn’t require you to grind it out day after day. And, it’s income that you can earn in addition to your professional income. So, an ATM business can certainly make it easier to retire when you want to.

And, the additional income of an ATM business gives you time to develop relationships outside of work and build a marriage that’s ready for the realities of retirement. It’s also a business that gets you out of the house which is a big plus for decreasing the chance of a grey divorce. Plus, you get to enjoy any neighborhood you wish to pursue, make connections, and have fun at the same time. 

So, your ATM business isn’t just a marriage failsafe for retirement. It’s also something that can sustain your marriage and life until you reach retirement.

And, what about those who are retired or near retirement right now? You can start an ATM business at any time. Yes, the ATM business is a long game. But, it’s a long game that you can start right now, regardless of where you are in your life. Besides, you can start and ATM business with less than $5,000 and the returns on that money will be much better than the bank and much safer than the stock market. You’re investing in yourself and in your retirement. 

If you’re ready to start now, learn more about starting an ATM business.

ATM Business Basics Part II: How to Start Up and Operate an ATM Business

Understanding how to start up and operate an ATM business might be one of the most overlooked parts of owning and operating ATM machines.

Yes, the ATM machines are important. But, most of the time investment actually goes into operating the business. After all, it only takes a few minutes to load cash into an ATM.

There are plenty of resources that explain how ATM owners make money. So, we’re going to focus on the process of starting and running your ATM business.

How to start up and operate an ATM business

Contrary to how it might seem, buying an ATM machine is not the first step. First, you need a place to put it (that isn’t your garage). These are the steps you need to follow:

  1. Identify potential ATM locations. There are plenty of options—gas stations, convenience stores, bars, and so on.
  2. Talk to the business owners and negotiate an agreement to provide an ATM for the business. You will need a contract for this agreement.
  3. Buy the ATM machine.
  4. Install the ATM machine, and secure it properly.
  5. Fill the ATM with cash.
  6. Tell people about your ATM.

Three of these steps actually have very little to do with the ATM machine itself. These three steps are major cornerstones of any business. And, these are the steps that most new business owners struggle with.

So, we’re going to break them down.

Identify ATM locationsGreat ATM Locations

In other businesses, this would be called “lead generation.” And, in many businesses, it’s a tricky process that some people never quite master.

But, in the ATM business, identifying leads can be as simple as visiting nearby businesses, choosing good candidates for an ATM placement, and asking if they have an ATM machine.

If the location already has an ATM machine, that doesn’t mean that you can’t place an ATM there. But, it’s an additional hurdle, since you’ll have to replace the current ATM provider. The business owner may or may not be willing to do that.

Either way, you can generate leads simply by visiting businesses and tracking which ones have ATMs and which ones don’t. Keep notes on locations, and remember locations that may be worth the extra effort to replace an existing ATM.

This list of businesses is essentially your leads database.

Negotiate with business owners

In traditional business terms, this would be the “sales” stage. This is where you actually sell your ATM services to the business owner. And, this can be the most challenging and time-consuming part of the process.

First, you have to convince the business owner to talk to you at all. Business owners are busy. And, people generally don’t like being sold to.

But, even though this is a sales process, it doesn’t have to be salesy.

Approach this as a relationship-building process. It’s important that people trust you and are willing to work with you. Focus on understanding what the business owner needs and helping them solve their problems. The agreement is beneficial to both you and the business owner. Be willing to make the arrangement lucrative for the business owner, and help them understand how it benefits them.

If you struggle with negotiation and sales, it’s wise to develop a script for starting the conversation. It’s impossible to predict how any interaction will play out. But, it’s easier to start the conversation if you at least know what you’re going to say first.

Using a script or some sort of plan also enables you to optimize your negotiation and sales process. If you’ve tried something several times, and it’s not working, try something else. Once you find the thing that works, put it in your plan and stick with it.

You’ll also need a contract for this step. A verbal agreement won’t cut it.

You can get a lawyer to draw up a contract for you. However, this will usually cost about a thousand dollars.

Or, you can use a contract template, which is much more affordable. We offer contract templates as part of our membership at ATMDepot.

You can probably find other templates on the internet. But, if you download a free contract template, make sure that it has all the necessary recitals and protections you need. Your contract is the only thing that protects you in a dispute.

ATM at a Gas Station via StockPromoting your ATM

This last step is otherwise known as “marketing.” You’re going to get some organic transactions simply by having the ATM placed.

But, more transactions are better. And, the more people that know about your ATM, the more transactions you’ll get.

You’ve probably seen the “ATM” signs in the windows at gas stations and convenience stores. Adding one of these signs will raise awareness about your ATM.

But, if there are nearby businesses that don’t have ATM machines, go tell them about the new ATM. That way, when people ask if they have an ATM, these other businesses can direct people to your ATM machine.

As a bonus, it’s a good reason to have a conversation with more business owners who don’t have an ATM of their own. It could lead to installing a new ATM.

The business cycle

These three steps will essentially be your ATM business. Yes, there will be accounting and service calls. But, the vast majority of growing your business will be going through these three steps over and over. If you master these steps, your business will boom.

Get leads.

Negotiate an agreement.

Support and promote your ATM.

The rest is just the manual labor of installing the ATM machines and filling them with cash.

It might seem daunting. But, the first step is the easiest: just go out and visit businesses and find out which ones have no ATM. It’s simple, and you’ll start building your book of leads.

After that, you just need to follow up with your leads. Then, go through the core business steps to start up and operate an ATM business.

Need more help mastering these core business cycle steps? Get contract templates, sales scripts, and tons of other resources for starting and scaling your ATM business from ATMDepot.

California Bill SB 1186

 Personal Service Businesses

Personal Service BusinessesATM businesses are service-oriented businesses designed to offer customers flexibility and convenience. You can find them almost anywhere from gas stations to ballparks. As long as there is enough traffic and a need for the service, an ATM business is likely to thrive most anywhere.

Customer-oriented businesses generally position themselves as entities that are interested in servicing the needs of their entire customer base. Providing quality service is an important component, whether that business is a service establishment or a product-focused business. They do this by trying to remain knowledgeable and sensitive to both current customer needs as they anticipate any future considerations that may arise.

Personal services businesses like ATM businesses are especially attuned to the changing needs of customers, and this is where customized or specialized services are often seen. Accommodating customers with special physical needs or challenging physical requirements is especially important for various industries, like those in financial services. Financial establishments like banks and ATM’s have come under scrutiny in several instances as not being as accommodating as expected towards their physically challenged customers. Cases have been cited where there were not enough easily accessible wheelchair ramps. There have also some situations cited where there were no ramps or accommodations given at all.

Although this is not the case with every single ATM business, the large majority of ATM banking facilities will try and make its services easily accessible for all customers. Also, there are some ATM businesses that have yet to comply with a mandate to make its facilities accommodating. Some legal entities have gotten involved in an effort to hasten the process, creating more of an abusive legal process.

ATM facilities are being sued for not having adequate or proper accommodations for physically challenged individuals. Lawsuits against ATM business owners began to grow and occur so frequently until ATM business owners began asking for some type of intervention on their behalf.

Financial institutions are often seen as easy targets for lawsuits for several reasons:

1. It’s perceived as having an abundance of cash assets or easily liquidated assets.

2. Accessible cash assets (can possibly) lead to a quick payout in a lawsuit.

3. Financial institutions often want negative issues (like lawsuits) to hurry up and go away, so the institution is always eager to settle.

None of these examples are the norm, nor are they the exception since each entity operates within its own operating standards. But because of often preconceived notions, abusive lawsuits against ATM business owners exist. To that end, a California legislative committee worked towards compiling a bill that would deter these (sometimes) frivolous lawsuits and give ATM business owners time, relief and flexibility.

California Bill SB 1186

Californian senateThe Californian senate, with a bipartisan vote, passed a bill called the SB 1186 which will curb those abusive lawsuits against ATM business owners. The suit will serve to ban demand money letters from attorneys of the ADA plaintiffs. This means that there is a ban against written communications coming from attorneys and sent to ATM owners that demands payments from the owner in return for a dropped legal suit from the ADA. This communication is seen as undue coercion and the bill strictly prohibits that.

Although the ADA still has the right to pursue a legal course, the SB 1186 bill states that the attorneys would have to send a notification letter to the business owner before proceeding with a lawsuit. Upon receipt of the letter, the ATM owner would have 30 days to correct any issues, after which the ADA could then proceed with their suit if the owner hasn’t made any changes.

This bill passing is good news, both for ATM owners and ATM customers. The bill protects ATM owners from frivolous lawsuits and impatient attorneys, but most importantly, it gives the business owner an opportunity to correct any issues that could be from a number of different issues, not just negligence.

The bill passing in California is a relief for ATM business owners from threatening lawsuits and any threats of forthcoming suits. Customers with disabilities may need the use of wheelchair ramps, Braille keypads or a lower reach to get to the machine’s controls without any difficulty. Now, with the 30-days grace period, business owners can ensure that the accommodations are sufficient.