A small Spokane Valley company has discovered that automated teller machines can do more than dispense moneythey can help generate it.
Since Samantha and Michael Guthrie founded Automated ATM Solutions Inc. seven years ago, the company has sold more than 1,000 ATM machines in 17 states and has doubled its sales every year. As more small businesses realize how much money they can make from operating the machines, the Guthries expect that their business will continue to thrive, says Samantha Guthrie, who is the companys president.
Since the whole point in business is to make a profit, its sort of silly to walk away from additional revenue, she says.
Michael Guthrie, who is the companys vice president of sales, says that he and Samantha couldnt abandon the opportunity to earn some extra cash when they bought their first ATM unit and started what they thought would be a profitable hobby by leasing space and setting the ATM up at a nightclub. About 30 days later, they purchased three more machines that each turned a profit of $500 a month, he says.
Keeping the machines stocked with cash costs about $300 to $400 a month, including fees for armored-car service, insurance, and machine maintenance, he says.
Soon, the husband and wife team was earning enough income from their ATM venture that Samantha quit her job as a mortgage broker and Michael quit his job as an imaging-equipment technician, and they launched Automated ATM Solutions, he says.
The couple, who lived in Concord, Calif., at that time, then began selling, installing, and servicing ATM units mostly throughout Northern California, Samantha Guthrie says. The Guthries moved their company to 9616 E. Montgomery in Spokane Valley last September after the opportunity arose to return to where Michael grew up, she says.
They were relieved to leave behind the traffic and stress in California and excited to move here at a time when the Inland Northwests economy started picking up steam, Samantha Guthrie says.
Of course, were hoping to be part of that growth, she says.
Samantha Guthrie says Automated ATM Solutions sales volume is increasing 1 percent to 2 percent a month, but declines to disclose the companys annual revenue. Sales to Spokane-area customers account for about 5 percent of the companys total sales, she says.
The Guthries expect the company will double its sales in the next two years, and plan to expand their business in Washington, Idaho, and Northern Oregon, she says.
Michael Guthrie says that Automated ATM Solutions customers include convenience stores, gas stations, casinos, nightclubs, and some small credit unions that seek to provide convenient services to members outside their one or two branches.
Though most of Automated ATM Solutions credit-union clients are based in Northern California, the company hopes to contract with Spokane-area credit unions, he says.
The company typically doesnt contract with banks because they usually manage ATMs themselves, he says.
Automated ATM Solutions recently reached an agreement with Amtrak to sell, install, and service units in a number of railroad stations throughout the country, Guthrie says.
The company sells the machines to any business that wants to give its customers access to cash, and has put them in some unexpected locations, such as at produce farms in the Greenbluff area that are open to the public.
Samantha Guthrie says the company also supplies businesses with ATM units temporarily for events such as the hydroplane races in the Tri-Cities. Shes heard that giving event participants access to cash can increase retailers sales up to 25 percent, depending on the type of event.
Purchase prices fall
In the past, retailers chose not to install ATM machines because they couldnt afford the units, which back then cost $12,000 to $15,000 apiece, Samantha Guthrie says. Also, businesses werent allowed to charge service fees until 1996.
Now, Automated ATM Solutions sells machines for about $3,000 to $6,000, and more small-business owners are opting to buy the units and realize the economic benefits, Samantha Guthrie says.
Some well-established companies for decades might not have looked at the ATM machine as a viable business option, she says. Now that the price point has gone down, they realize they were missing out on a lot of revenue.
For a customer such as a convenience-store owner that makes about 10 cents per bag of potato chips, buying an ATM can be a wise investment, she asserts.
In fact, Automated ATM Solutions has sold a number of the machines to private investors who each own about 20 to 30 of them and lease space at locations where the machines are used as a low-cost business venture, Samantha Guthrie says. One customer, a gas-station owner who listened to the Guthries advice about starting such a venture and bought one unit five years ago, now owns 250 machines that net $125,000 a month in transaction fees, she says.
Michael Guthrie says the machines, which Automated ATM Solutions buys from Long Beach, Miss.-based Triton Systems Inc., weigh between 125 and 1,200 pounds each, and can hold between 700 and 12,000 notes depending on the units size. Customers can stock the machine with whatever size bills they want, though most stock primarily $20 bills, he says.
Businesses gain revenue from ATM machines through surcharges, which they typically set at about $1.50 to $2, Michael Guthrie says. Automated ATM Solutions doesnt dip into those revenues, but instead generates revenue strictly through equipment sales and service, he says.
Michael Guthrie claims Automated ATM Solutions is one of about 50 companies that sell, install, and service ATM machines nationally. Many of the 200 or so companies that distributed the machines in the U.S. several years ago went out of business after promising to provide more equipment than they could deliver, he says.
Samantha Guthrie says the Spokane company has avoided taking on other finance-related products and has focused on ATM sales, which have helped it survive and grow. It employs four people full time here, and six service technicians in California, and plans to double its staff size over the next two years, she says. It also works with 12 independent sales representatives and a number of subcontractor technicians throughout the U.S. who provide service wherever the companys units are installed, she says.
Michael Guthrie says Automated ATM Solutions provides 24-hour service to help customers when their ATMs malfunction, including when the receipt paper jams and when the card reader stops working. The company also upgrades ATM machines software periodically, he says.
Samantha Guthrie says that though Automated ATM Solutions stocks some high-volume ATMs with cash, the company usually leaves that job up to customers because its expensive for the company to pay the armored-car service and insurance fees.
In their seven years of doing business, only four attempts to steal ATM units that the Guthries sold have been reported, and none were successful, Samantha Guthrie says. Stealing from the machines is nearly impossible because theyre bolted to the ground and contain vaults that are an inch thick.
Also, most ATM owners typically dont stock their units with thousands of dollars, so thieves shouldnt expect to make much of a haul, she says.
Despite the futility of trying to steal an ATM machine, some people make the effort, she says. She heard a story about a thief who plowed into a convenience store with a truck, chained the ATM unit to the vehicle, and drove off. The force of the truck pulling the machine ripped the bumper off, and the driver zoomed away, leaving his license plate behind.
I just think theres easier ways to make $300, she says.
The Guthries dont worry about attempts made to steal equipment theyve sold, nor do they worry about people who say the market is saturated with ATM units, Samantha Guthrie says. To the contrary, they see room for growth as more consumers expect to have access to the machines wherever they go, she says.
Some people say that theres nowhere else to put them, but new needs arise all the time, she says.
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