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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.

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.

[VIDEO] Explosives Used to Break into Machine during ATM Robbery, Thieves Caught on HD Camera

On August 11, 2017, two criminals drove their SUV up to a Gas Station ATM Kiosk with a plan. They planned to execute an ATM robbery by blowing up the ATM with some sort of liquid explosive. It is clear from this video, it’s not the first time they are attempting this. They are wanted by the FBI. The authorities were very excited to see the quality of our security footage.

Authorities_On_Scene

Authorities at the Crime Scene of the ATM Robbery in San Diego, CA

When you start using explosives on an ATM, you attract a lot of attention. You get the local police, sheriffs, SWAT, the Bomb Squad, ATF, and the FBI involved. That’s a lot of manpower hunting you down.

These guys are wanted by the FBI. It’s not just a local crime.  Is a few grand worth having to hide and run for the rest of your life? I don’t think so.

The suspects think they got away with it. However, as time will tell, and with the help of this HD video, and the enhancement tools Federal Law Enforcement agencies have available, they will most likely do time behind bars for this ATM robbery.  Maybe they will save all the money they stole to pay for their lawyer. They will need it.

I’ve been in the ATM business since 1994. Since then, I’ve helped hundreds of Independent ATM Deployers (IAD’s) start, run, and maintain successful ATM businesses. I’ve personally sold or installed hundreds and hundreds of ATM machines. I currently manage thousands of machines and hundreds of thousands of ATM transactions nationwide and I’ve never, ever seen anything like this.

This location has been a customer of ours for over a decade. We’ve never had any issue until we installed a new kiosk.  While this small kiosk does not appear to be bomb proof, the old kiosk building we used previously onsite was. Unfortunately for us the gas station – car wash is undergoing a remodel and needed to demolish the building, so we had to move the ATM to the other side of the parking lot.

In order not to inhibit the authority’s investigation, we won’t go into the details of what the authorities knew in this article.

However, now that we know all the details we can help others.

So, if you plan to install a kiosk and you are one of our customers (or want to be), please contact our office for some additional help.

We learned an expensive lesson, so we hope to use it to educate our customers.

ATM Depot can certainly help you avoid the same fate. We thought we prepared for every security scenario but they proved us wrong on this one. The key is that we learned an awful lot from this and can now assist our customers even better when dealing with outdoor ATMs.

**** UPDATE ****

September 28, 2017

After many calls between the account manager, Jeremy, and the FBI and ATF, on this situation, we learned that the authorities were able to issue a subpoena at the home of Scott Michael Petri. We are not sure how all this went down but we speculate that the FBI was able to leverage the information obtained in the video of the ATM robbery. According to law enforcement, one of the suspects bragged to a confidential informant about the crime. Upon serving a subpoena at the suspects home, the Law enforcement authorities say they found a drill, a gas cylinder, clothing and other incriminating evidence in his home that matched the items in the surveillance video during the crime.

Court documents allege (and video shows) Petri used a cordless drill to make two holes in the ATM machine’s housing. A second unidentified suspect (now in custody) approached the ATM with an open flame (see video, looks like a cigarette) and lit a fuse.  The suspects drove to the other side of the gas station and the ATM exploded. See the entire ATM robbery (edited for time) in the video above.

Suspect_Searching

The suspect (circled) is searching for the cash box after the ATM robbery explosion

The August robbery was the second time this year an explosive device was used on an ATM in San Diego, according to the FBI.

**** UPDATE ****

October 5, 2017

Scott Michael Petri faces a charge of using an explosive to damage property relating to a robbery at the Chevron Station and Pit Stop Car Wash on Miramar Road just south of the 15 Freeway entrance. The suspect was picked up and booked on October 5th and transferred into Federal custody and is being held in the Federal Prison in Downtown San Diego by the ATF. Bail has been set at $250,000.

ATM_Suspect_Arrested

Public arrest records for Scott Michael Petri. One of the suspects in the ATM robbery.

Setting Up an ATM Business

Network Transaction Fees + Customer Service

Setting Up an ATM BusinessWith the rising cost of bank fees for various services, bank customers welcome any opportunity they can find to save a few dollars. Whether those savings are with their monthly service fees or through ATM transaction fees, any cost savings they can readily see and reap do add up quickly.

It’s no secret to customers that they think their ATM fees are outrageous, and it seems to them that the fees increase almost every time they make an ATM withdrawal. While that may seem a bit of an exaggeration, what is real is the cost of doing business and how that cost is sometimes passed on to the customer.

Frequent ATM Users

Customers who frequently travel for business or leisure may find that they’re always on the lookout for an ATM machine, especially if they’re not in the habit of carrying large amounts of cash on them at once. These individuals want and need to find ATM machines that they have easy access to, can withdraw the amount of money they need, and those machines that don’t have such exorbitant fees charged to customers. After all, it is their money, and while they don’t mind paying for the ATM convenience, they just want the amount charged to at least be reasonable.

ATM owners also know that these customers need their services from time to time. Some may need it more often than others, but ATM owners also know that there may be another ATM machine further down the road where the customer can take their business if they don’t like the service that’s offered. This can be anything from broken machines, to insufficient cash in the machines or machines that don’t give them their bank balances after the transaction.

The ATM business is a very lucrative and competitive type of business overall. Owners and operators of the lucrative ATM business can often expect almost 100% of their ROI within months or an average annual return of 50% or more when the ATM business is properly Run. The investment far outweighs just keeping your cash in a money market account.  To the owners, that’s the best part of being in this type of business. But, to the customers, those fees and surcharges are very much their frustrations.

Flexibility and Convenience

ATM owners provide a convenient and flexible service to users who need to access the money in their bank accounts, but may not be at or near the bank where their accounts are held. So, instead of that customer searching and looking for “their” bank, the ATM machine provides instant service that saves them time and frustration.

Convenience does come with a cost.

Individuals often have to pay usage fees or transaction fees to withdraw money from their accounts, if they’re not making the transaction at their branded ATM machine. So that means if John Doe wants to withdraw $100 from ABC Bank, but he banks with XYZ bank, he may have to pay a surcharge anywhere from ~ $1.00 to $3.00 for the convenient service.

For the ATM owner, it’s a win-win situation, and they can also make it easier for the customer too.

Keep It Profitable

keep it profitableATM owners determine their own surcharge “convenience” fees when they setup the machines, therefore they can set the limit accordingly, based on their desired profits, cost of doing business, location of the ATM, traffic, visibility, etc. Here are some things to implement with the ATM business that can keep it profitable for the owner and hassle-free for the customers:

  • Clearly display on the machine what the withdrawal fees are per transaction (this is a network regulation and all ATM Owners must display this). If your ATM is missing the fee notice contact your ATM provider, if they don’t offer this decal, shop for another ATM provider. Not only does this decal cut down on misunderstandings or disputes and possible charge-backs, it keeps your ATM and your ATM business compliant.
  • Maintain the ATM machines in proper working order. If the machines are inoperable, that ATM business traffic will go elsewhere and the place of business will find another ATM Provider.
  • Keep the ATM machine visible and in the open. Sometimes, people are leery about transacting with an ATM machine that is “away” from heavy foot traffic or is in a secluded or hidden spot. Think safety. Don’t put the ATM in a dark hallway or other “inconspicuous area”.
  • Ensure that the ATM machine is always stocked with cash. Running out of funds is frustrating, both for customers and the owner. Make a habit to check and stock the machines frequently. Your ATM provider should offer online access so you can check your ATM machines in real time for cash balances to ensure they have enough funds.
  • While compliance requires the ATM have the processors phone number prominently displayed, be sure to place your contact information in a visible area on the ATM machine, just in case your customers need to contact you with problems. There shouldn’t really be any problems with ATM machines because they require very little support, but customers often feel more secure knowing that there is a way to contact someone in case there is a problem.

Just a few simple things in the beginning of setting up an ATM business can help it run smoothly and efficiently at all times. Customers always have other options, and they will use those options if they don’t have a choice. By setting up the business to be as self-automated as possible and with minimal maintenance, makes both customers and ATM owners satisfied all around.

If you need helping setting up your ATM business to be successful, be sure to contact us.

Things to Do Before Starting an ATM Business

Three Major Things to Do Before Starting an ATM BusinessWithout a doubt, the ATM business is a very easy and quite lucrative one to get into. Everyone from the small business owner to the large corporation understands the immense benefits that abound in owning and managing an ATM business. ATM business owners can position their machines at most any well-trafficked location and see a return on their investment in a short matter of time. The key to success is choosing the right company to go with in setting up an ATM business, and knowing how to properly organize and manage it for optimal, profitable results.

The ATM business is one that can easily be a long-term, high-profit business that grows each year, but it’s important to ensure that the business is properly set up from the beginning. Everything from ATM software, security, location and management needs to be considered seriously before any real profits are seen. This is also important so as to keep those profits coming in while keeping business expenses as low as possible.

Here are a few tips to review and make sure are they’re on your checklist as you start the ATM ownership process:

1. Determine Ideal Setup

How do you want to manage the ATM business? Several options include owning and managing the machine, or, owning it and having someone else manage it by loading it with cash as necessary. Perhaps there will be another owner, and you simply manage the machine. Either of the options depends solely on your personal preferences and what works best for your end goals. Be aware however that you will need to ensure that the proper legal paperwork is in place to protect liabilities, especially since this area of business involves handling large amounts of cash.

2. ATM Machines, New or Used?

This is another consideration that’s best determined by your budget or preferences with the style and functionality of the ATM machine. Buying a used machine vs. a new one will definitely save you a significant amount of money on cost, but it’s also important to be sure that the used version will have all of the features and capabilities that it needs in order to draw in favorable traffic. Also, newer, more current models are going to have current software and run more efficiently, but if you’re considering planting multiple ATM machines in different locales, your best option may be to invest in used models until you break even with your profits.

3. Find ATM Dealers

In addition to thinking of either new or used machines, you also have to consider from whom you purchase your machine. It’s imperative to use only reputable dealers and ATM machine processing facilities with whom to do business. Make sure that the company has a stellar client support system for questions and setup. Also ensure that there are warranties included with your equipment so as to avoid any issues later on. Unless you know of a third party either on a personal level or you’re very familiar with the brand and model of an ATM machine, it is not a good idea to buy your machine from a private party or individuals who list an ATM machine for sale.

Finally, as it is with customer service in any business, ensure that the ATM processing company that you select has a generous support system for their clients. Scope out a processing company that offers 24 hour, 7 days a week support, and also has multiple contact numbers to reach them, preferably toll free numbers. This is important for customers because ATM owners will have all different hours, night and day, where they will be working and managing their machines. They need access to customer support just in case they run into any issues, and at any time of the day or night. Take note of whether or not live callers answer the phone lines, or if there is an automated message. If you get an automated message, test the call by leaving a voice mail message asking for more information. Notice the length of time that it takes to have your call returned, and this is a good indicator of how you’ll be treated once you become a customer.