Harris Back To ‘Work’ After A Year’s Break

A year after he split with his partners at Work, the agency he founded more than a decade ago, Cabell Harris is back in control of the independent Richmond, Va. shop. “It’s like starting over,” Harris said. “I’m back with a vengeance.”

Starting over may be an understatement. Harris reopened the agency on Jan. 1 with just one other staffer, art director Lee Jennings, but said he has connections to a full roster of freelance designers and writers. Harris is positioning the shop as one that allows him to keep fees low while providing the services of a larger agency. “If I need to be 100 people, I can make that happen,” he said.

Harris left Work in January 2004 because of a “different point of view [from] the other partners,” he said. As part of a deal made at that time, those partners have taken about 20 employees and the agency’s clients to start a new shop in Richmond called Watson. Clients include Cendant hotels, the Virginia Housing Development Authority and the Gettysburg National Battlefield Museum Foundation.

Watson CEO Joel Constantz and his partners had the option of renewing the lease on the agency for another year, but chose to launch their own shop instead. Both Harris and Constantz described the split as amicable but declined to comment further on what happened. “I just want to go back to what I do best—being a creative problem-solver,” said Harris, who originally opened Work in Los Angeles and moved it to his hometown of Richmond a year later.

An art director, Harris built his résumé at shops including Interpublic Group’s The Martin Agency in Richmond and Omnicom’s TBWA\Chiat\Day in Playa del Rey, Calif. In addition to teaching at the Virginia Commonwealth University Ad Center for the past year, Harris formed Work Labs, a company that develops and markets new products. He plans to continue teaching at the Ad Center.