For years now, we’ve been telling people how dangerous it is to ignore the weak signals of disruptive change.

Now, we have the data to back it up.

That data comes courtesy of CCH, which released the results of its “Leaders Now and Next” survey at the 2013 CCH User Conference in Phoenix.

In it, CCH put forth a CPA-centric version of the technology adoption curve that’s made up of four groups from within the profession:

  • Pioneers, who are the first to adopt new technology.
  • Early adopters, who aren’t the first to adopt but are ahead of the mainstream.
  • Mainstreamers, who wait until technology becomes mainstream to jump aboard the bandwagon.
  • Late adopters, who are the last to adopt new technology.

The results were eye-opening, to say the least:

  • More pioneers are likely to say they have a solid vision to lead their firms in the future than mainstreamers or late adopters.
     
  • Ninety-one percent of pioneering firms say they are investing in recruiting and developing the next generation of leadership, compared to 35 percent of mainstream and late-adopting firms.
     
  • When it comes to workplace issues — flexible environments, motivated workforces, recruitment / retention, training, mentoring and the like — pioneers scored higher across the board.
     
  • Pioneering firms listen to their customers. Eighty-five percent of them have customer advisory boards, compared to 19 percent of mainstream / late adopters.
     
  • Eighty-nine percent of pioneering firms ask their team members to participate in conferences and 85 percent of them utilize social media — well above the mainstream / late adopter numbers.

You get the idea.

So what’s the bottom line?

Just this: Eighty-four percent of pioneering firms said their revenue increased over the past year, compared to 63 percent of mainstream / late adopter firms. Eighty-nine percent of pioneers reported increased profits over the past year; only 63 percent of mainstreamers / late adopters did so. And 74 percent of pioneers said their value to clients has increased over the past five years, compared to 62 percent of mainstreamers and late adopters.

If you’re still looking for the ROI of staying ahead of the curve, there it is.

Look, I get it. Change is hard. Plus, why change when we’re making money the old way?

Because that kind of attitude stifles innovation. It keeps you from learning anything new. It’s an insult to your clients, who are desperately trying to outrun change themselves. And it will ultimately lead to your company’s death, because I guarantee you this: Your competitors are changing. They’re hungry, and they’re ready to innovate. As former Harley executive Ken Schmidt says, “Competitors aren’t eating your lunch. You’re feeding it to them by doing nothing.”

Be a pioneer. It pays.

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