Louis Gigante likes sleek, first-class transportation, but it isn’t always limousines that fit his taste, the president of Capricorn Limousine in Long Island, N.Y., also has a love of racehorses that has endured through his more than 20 years in the livery business.
Gigante says he never considered he industry until he was married and wanted the dependability of a steady job. “In the horse business, it’s day-to-day and it’s not consistent,” he says.
In 1979, Gigante began operating live cars at the Regency Hotel in New York. Ranked No. 59 in LCT’s Top 75 Largest Fleets list this year, Capricorn operates 66 vehicles, including 35 sedans, 26 stretches and five vans.
The majority of business is generated by the luxury hotels in the city and consists of airport shuttles and movement throughout the city to meetings and other venues.
Capricorn is not the largest limousine company, nor does it aim to be, Gigante says.
His goal is to provide the best service possible while focusing on the existing customers. “We’ve had many of our customers for more than 20 years. That tells me we’re doing something right.”
Prior to 9/11, Gigante operated more than 80 cars. But the company downsized to 65 in the months after. He says his goal is to always maintain at least 65 vehicles, which can be supported by the hotels he services, including the Waldorf-Astoria and the Omni Berkshire Place.
Capricorn insists on exclusive contracts with the hotels it works with, giving the company the sole right to have an on-property representative.
Compensation to the hotel for exclusive service can range from 10% to 20% of Capricorn’s base rates, a rental fee charged by the hotel, or both.
Chauffeurs must act in a manner that accurately reflects the reputation and character of each hotel. Four-and five-star hotels demand state-of-the-art vehicles equipped with all amenities used in first-class limousine service.
Capricorn has kept some hotel contracts for as long as 25 years, and Gigante attributes his staying power to strong customer relations and a policy of honesty no matter the circumstances.
“The problems and challenges we face can never be and excuse to justify any mistakes,” he says.
“Never hide from any situation. And answer everyone’s problems and phone calls. That keeps you honest.
“Dedicated employees key to a successful business," Gigante emphasizes. He shares the credit with each employee and promotes teamwork. Regular meetings are held that include management, chauffeurs and other staff members to get input from each segment of the company.
Pal Pisano, vice president of sales and marketing, has worked at Capricorn since 1991 and says she appreciates the latitude she is given to make decisions about the company.
“Mr. Gigante really knows how to delegate responsibilities and after a person has proven himself, he just gives you the reins,” Pisano says. “He is extremely fair and really lets you take control.”
Pisano adds that Gigante is willing to give everyone a chance and treats both new and veteran employees with the same level of respect.
Improving the work environment within his company is a constant goal Gigante aims for. He plans to add additional staff members to keep each employee’s workload manageable and to better serve customers.
Future plans for the company also include the addition of new vehicles, but controlling costs must always be considered before new projects are implemented, Gigante explains. Maintaining the current level of customer service is more important than just adding vehicles, he continues.
Gigante also advises operators to stay out of debt in order to make good business deals possible.
As successful as Gigante has become, he doesn’t even pause when considering what else he would be doing if he weren’t a limousine operator. He’d be working with racehorses, he says confidently. “It’s my love, it’s always been my love and always will be.”