May 4, 2021
Lee Ann Knudsen
Lee Ann Knudsen

Signing off, one last time

LANDSCAPE TRADES PUBLISHER LEE ANN KNUDSEN retired in January, after more than 20 years with the magazine. In this installment of Mentor Moment, Lee Ann reflects on her time with the publication, and looks ahead to what’s next.

What did landscape pros teach you?

My 20 years in publishing for the landscape sector really drove home respect for small business owners. I watched the pros across Canada making payroll, going after sales, believing in safety, navigating regulations and supporting their communities on top of it all. Landscape and horticulture pros are exceptional citizens – they are honest, work hard and live their faith. I learned to embrace their business model.

What are you proud to leave behind?

During my 20 years on the Landscape Trades masthead, I saw its mission as providing information that busy entrepreneurs could not get otherwise, such as how other business owners are solving problems. The content is how we attract a loyal and energized audience and thus attract advertisers. Reader loyalty was sky-high when I came on board, which we have maintained and even hopefully improved. We have since implemented some new systems, striven to publish quality stories, improved our circulation, hired some star staffers and diversified offerings.

Since a magazine is a living thing, what can readers do better from their end?

A discouraging aspect of publishing is that when you do things right, all you hear is silence. But make one mistake and the calls and emails come pouring in! I am proud of the high level of engagement Landscape Trades consistently generates, which is quite rare in the magazine business. But I encourage busy pros to contact your magazine even more frequently, since you can guarantee your input will be heard and respected.

What bugs you about today’s publishing business?

Time and again, especially in trade publishing, I see writers talk down to audiences. That is terrible writing, but it also indicates the writer does not respect his or her audience and does not embrace professional standards. I always regarded Landscape Trades readers as the experts, and sincerely admired their achievements. After all, our Canadian landscape pros are proving every day they have what it takes to survive in the tough small business world. It was my job to promote prosperity by collecting sector-specific information our pros could not easily get otherwise.

What were some of the biggest challenges?

Magazines have an extraordinary level of accountability. The content we publish is permanent, and we always provide a name, address, and phone number – no anonymity to hide behind. So, every sign-off to the printer is a very serious matter. I always found it interesting that the most successful landscape pros operate under the same model. A handshake is real, commitments are to be honoured. It’s all about accountability.

Another constant challenge was finding space to cover stories for several landscape sectors, since Landscape Trades serves contractors for several markets – construction, maintenance, irrigation, lighting, snow – plus landscape designers, nursery growers and garden centres. Even though many readers participate in more than one of the above, it’s quite the diverse range to cover.

What made your job easier?

Every member of the Landscape Trades publishing team is a pro, including both staff and freelance writers. They make an astonishing number of deadlines each year, but you never see the pressure. The atmosphere is always calm, never panicked. They make it look easy. Readers are fortunate to be supported by this team.

What did you enjoy most about your career with Landscape Trades?

I really enjoyed the friendliness. This was among our staff, within the association circles and with business owners. There is no fakery in the landscape community. Everybody is open and willing to help.

How will you spend your retirement?

My husband Kerry and I have retired to a stone cottage in the mountains. We had great careers; we worked really, really hard and had lots of fun. We are so grateful for those years, but now we are enjoying a new kind of fun. For example, today we need to decide where to plant a ‘Blue Moon’ wisteria to align with a future deck. It’s a big switch to be living in the present rather than constantly planning for deadlines.
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