Weaver Transmission Service, Inc. (WTS) is aptly located on the Mechanicsville Turnpike in Richmond, Virginia. The business is owned and operated by Lisa Weaver-Roy, but for business continuity purposes and to eliminate confusion, she drops the hyphenated suffix, Roy. I mention business continuity because Lisa purchased the business from her father and uncle when they retired in 2013.
The reason for the marathon reference will be clearer as the article progresses, so, just like a marathon, let’s start at the beginning. In 1977, two brothers, John (Johnny) and James (Jimmy) Weaver, opened WTS. Johnny is Lisa’s father, and Jimmy is her uncle.
Prior to 1977, the brothers each worked at separate transmission shops. They saved together to open their own shop with the shared goal to treat people right in an era when shops weren’t the most reputable. The two men could fix transmissions, but it took the help of their mother, a legal secretary at the time, to set up the office and teach Jimmy how to keep the books.Lisa added, “My grandmother’s involvement was crucial in making the shop professional and legitimate at a time when transmission shops had shady reputations. WTS has always treated people fairly and with respect.”
After a year, it became apparent that the company was going to succeed. The boys’ father, John, Sr. came to work at WTS. He’d been a transmission rebuilder at a nearby dealership. Lisa recalled, “So, by 1979, the whole family was working here. Unfortunately, my grandfather died later in that same year.”
In 1987, tragedy struck again. Lisa’s older brother, Jay, was involved in a near-fatal motorcycle accident. He was hospitalized for over a year, spending much of that time in a coma. Jay never fully recovered from the effects of his injuries, which dramatically altered the future for WTS and the entire family.
Before the accident, Jay worked for several years at WTS. He had already started rebuilding by the age of 17. It was assumed that he would eventually take over the business whenever his dad and uncle decided to retire. Of course, that all changed in a moment.With an element of pride, Lisa stated, “Jay is our longest-term employee with 35 years at WTS. And even though his capacity is limited, he still fills the vital role of facilities and property maintenance. He’s the reason our shop always looks so great! In his off time, he enjoys gardening, bird watching, and spending time with his cats.”
Lisa reflected on that fateful year, 1987, “In addition to Jay’s accident, my grandmother also died. To help fill the void at the shop, I did whatever I could to take up the slack. I was the parts driver and ran other errands. One thing I recall was how out of place I felt because I didn’t see any other female employees in the other shops. Eventually, I became the bookkeeper, service advisor, and office manager.”
From 1987 to 2013, Lisa learned all she could from her dad and her Uncle Jimmy. She says, “Johnny, my dad, treated people fairly and with respect, and I try to model this every day. Customers still come and tell stories of how my dad helped them.”
She continued, “My Uncle Jimmy, this man taught me so much! Bookkeeping, budgeting, patience… and he was quick to offer encouragement or just a pat on the back. He was also my running buddy. He taught me about running when I was 35, and that changed my life. We trained for and ran races regularly until his retirement.”
Just as a side note, Lisa has run several marathons, including the Boston Marathon, in 2019! She says she has some other “bucket list” marathons in her future. Lisa runs 25 to 50 miles a week to keep her head clear and stay in marathon shape. She relates running to life with her one step at a time approach to facing life’s challenges. When she’s not at the shop, Lisa enjoys gardening and spending quality time with her husband and their pet dog and parrot.
When I asked Lisa what challenges she’s had to deal with as a woman-owned business, she didn’t hesitate, “It seemed like everyone who came in, wanted to speak to a man, or they’d ask if my husband was available. I guess some people need to see your credentials.” She joked, “Robert, my dear husband of 27 years, is a brick mason, so, unless they wanted a wall built, they needed to speak with me.”
Lisa also shared that Lucille Traganowan, the founder of Transmissions by Lucille back in 1974 and known as America’s Most Trusted Mechanic, was an early inspiration for her. As Lisa puts it, “When I read Lucille’s book, it not only inspired me, but it made things seem possible.”
Lisa has proven herself as a leader for her company and within our industry. She was the first woman to serve on the Jasper Engines & Transmissions Advisory Panel. WTS is a Jasper Preferred Installer and has received the President’s Award from Jasper for 10 consecutive years.
When I asked Lisa what she’d like her customers to know about WTS, she responded, “I want our customers to know that we’ll treat them fairly and with respect and that our technicians will work on their vehicle with professionalism and care.” To exemplify her commitment in this regard, WTS has made a lot of procedural changes due to COVID-19. Lisa plans to make many of them permanent – cleaning vehicles before and after repairs, using protective coverings on interior surfaces, communicating primarily by text, and touch-free payments and vehicle pickup arrangements.
What’s the WTS difference? Lisa believes, “We’re different from our competition in that our technicians work together to correctly diagnose and repair the vehicle. I encourage teamwork, and we work together on each job to make sure it gets done as efficiently and smoothly as possible. It’s also important to me that we prioritize our customers’ needs – whether it’s time, cost, or warranty that’s most important to them. We stand behind our work and try to help them in any way we can.”
Lisa is quick to credit her team with making the difference a reality. Besides Lisa and Jay, with about 35 years with WTS, two other techs have been with the company for over 20 years.
Robbie Rilee has been with WTS for over 24 years, and he has multiple ASE certifications. He specializes in diagnostics, electrical and in-car repairs. Robbie also helps with service advising – especially on complicated jobs. Outside of work, Robbie likes camping, hunting, motorcycle riding, and his dogs.
Jason McDaniel has over 20 years with the company and possesses multiple ASE certifications. His areas of focus are diagnostics, FWD transmission repairs, programming, and electronics.Next to his dog, Jason’s pride and joy is his custom 1983 240 Volvo. He calls it a “sleeper.” While it looks like any other Volvo from the outside, under the hood is a 6 Liter, Cadillac Escalade engine and a 700R4 transmission. He said, “It fit in so perfectly that it looks like it came from the factory with the engine. It bolted straight in – all we needed was different mounts. It’s my daily driver, and I’ve even driven it across the country. It looks like a ‘Gramma Car,’ but at the drag strip, it turns a 12-second quarter and 109 MPH.”
Our third tech is Teddy Barton. He’s been with us for 5 years, specializing in RWD transmissions, transfer case and differential repairs, and unit installations. When he’s not at WTS, he enjoys caring for his small farm animals and attending concerts and festivals.
Last and most certainly not least is Lisa’s daughter, Emily Roy. She’s already been with the company for over 6 years. Her roles are many and varied – office manager, customer service, phones, greeting and checking in customers, daily bookkeeping, vehicle computer scans, and she does our vehicle programming. Lisa says, “It’s both a challenge and my greatest pleasure to work side-by-side with my daughter every day. I hope that she will eventually buy and operate the shop to keep it in the family with an ever-present woman’s touch.” Emily enjoys gardening, and spending time with her friends, her boyfriend, and her cat.
The company supports the auto industry and the community. WTS is a member of ATRA, ASA, ATSG, and an Accredited Member of the BBB. They also provide financial support to the animal shelter, the police athletic league, and sponsor several elementary schools’ 5K runs.
Lisa’s closing comment was, “When I bought the business, I was really interested in shop culture, and I felt we could improve ours. As with most change processes, we’ve had our ups and downs, but I truly feel that our shop culture has become more open and positive, and WTS is a nice place to work. The best part is that our customers benefit from it too. But just like a marathon, we have to keep on keeping on.”