How the ATM helped one man live the American dream
Sam Kandah always dreamed of coming to the United States. In 1975, at the age of 18, he finally got the opportunity, when his parents moved the entire family to Florida from the Palestinian sector of Jerusalem.
Sam made the most of his dream-come-true. Already fluent in English, he set out in pursuit of success.After graduating from Cleveland State University in 1981 with an engineering degree, he accepted a job in California in the aerospace industry.
In 1992, he joined a startup manufacturer of point-of-sale terminals. And when that company changed direction, Sam used the knowledge he had gained in merchant services to start an independent sales office focused on credit card processing.
As the credit card processing space became more and more competitive, Sam caught wind of the deregulation of ATM surcharging in 1996, which opened the ATM space for nonbank placements.
He pitched the idea to his partners in the merchant services business but they were skeptical. Sam remained convinced that he could create a successful business placing ATMs. “So, I went in alone, making the decision to enter the ATM industry by myself,” he said.
Sam launched his ATM empire with a single placement. Today, as president of NationalLink, he oversees the operation of more than 15,000 ATMs and provides complete ATM solutions to direct clients.
In 2012, Sam envisioned the development of a platform to help other independent ATM deployers with machine sales, repairs, wireless connectivity and spare parts. This led to the launch of NationalLink subsidiary ATMTrader, whose website not only offers goods and services for sale, but also provides a free listing service to help IADs connect with one another to buy or sell parts and portfolios and find ATM technicians.
Though his company has been highly successful, Sam is the first to admit that the road to success was never assured.
“Being at the right place at the right time had a lot to do with it,” he said. “At times, it has been very difficult to operate the company. Financially, we have not used investors; instead, we focused on building the business organically.”
Even after years spent striving to build a successful business, though, sitting back and relaxing is the last thing on Sam’s mind. He constantly looks for ways to improve the business and provide better service to his customers.
Asked whether he would do it all over again, he said, “I wish I knew then what I know now, so I could simply do it better.”
The U.S. has provided Sam the chance to carve out his own legacy. With his family now deeply rooted here, he hopes that one day he will see his children find their own version of the American Dream.