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HeadWaters Conference

Our two-day annual leadership conference for CPAs includes top firm leaders and consultants to help develop dynamic and successful firm leaders.  Join us each July!

HeadWaters Conference

July 17-18 at the Hyatt Regency Denver

Widely regarded as one of the best firm management conferences, HeadWaters is held each July and draws partners and others in leadership positions from firms across the United States and Canada.    

During the HeadWaters Leadership Conference, industry experts will provide guidance to help your firm understand and improve your firm’s strategic planning and implementation.

Watch for additional details regarding HeadWaters 2025 in January.  

Additional Information on the HeadWaters Conference

Who Should Attend?

HeadWaters is attended by managing partners, shareholders, firm administrators, and current and future leaders.

What is the cost?

Individuals can register for $1,350  (UAN Members pay $1,150).

Unconditional Guarantee

We’re confident that the HeadWaters Leadership Conference will be of immeasurable value to you. Like everything we do at Upstream Academy, this program is unconditionally guaranteed to your full satisfaction. If you’re not completely satisfied, we will, at your option, either waive your fee or accept that portion of the fee that reflects your level of satisfaction.

HeadWaters Conference Agenda for 2024

Thursday, July 11, 2024

7:00 – 8:00 am Breakfast

Full breakfast

8:00 – 8:15 am Welcome

Jeremy will open the conference, make introductions and explain logistics.

8:15 – 9:15 am Run Your Firm Like a Business, Not a Group of Sole Practitioners

Jeremy Clopton, Director at Upstream Academy

What could the firm accomplish if everyone worked toward firm success, rather than just individual success?  Could you practice more strategic decision-making, take on more ambitious initiatives, pass on expertise more easily, and create clients and employees loyal to the firm rather than individuals?  Let’s discuss specific, practical, and actionable ways to move from a collection of individuals to a unified team with a culture that encourages and rewards making good business decisions.

9:15 – 9:30 am Break
9:30 – 10:30 am From Book to Behaviors: Changing Your Partner Compensation Model

Jackie Cardello, President and Managing Partner at GRF CPAs & Advisors

You get what you reward.  Asking partners to help the firm when those actions result in personal financial hits is not only difficult, but unfair.  A secret recipe for fixing all partner compensation issues doesn’t exist, but understanding and applying key principles can help you move toward your desired results.  Let’s discuss how to shift from rewarding personal revenue generation to rewarding impactful behaviors that cultivate a culture of teamwork, mentorship, client development, and ultimately more long-term success.

10:30 – 10:45 am Break
10:45 – 12:00 pm Changing the CPA-Firm Revenue Model: It’s Not If, It's When

Michelle Golden River, President at Fore LLC

Cost-plus pricing loses luster as firms begin sourcing talent abroad at much lower costs. And hourly billing’s shortcomings are evident as technology speeds up work. As business models rapidly shift, firm revenue models need to as well. CPAs are taught that they “sell time” but time isn’t your product! Your people regularly contribute to high-value outcomes but rarely had a good framework to position their true worth. Until now. Learn how worth-based pricing boosts profitability AND reinvigorates passion for our profession.

12:00– 1:00 pm Lunch
1:00 – 1:45 pm Concurrent Sessions (choose one of three)
Living Your Firm Values: Using Goals to Increase Employee Engagement

Josh Tyree, President at Harris CPAs

Are your firm values ingrained in the DNA of your firm – so everyone across the firm lives your values in goal-setting and decision-making every day – or would people have a hard time articulating how their work integrates with firm values?  Join Josh as he explains a process designed to help individuals across all levels of the firm collaborate and contribute, develop meaningful goals, create new relationships, and lead initiatives, increasing engagement and breathing new life into your firm values.

Differentiating between Ownership and Leadership

Courtney DeRonde, CEO at Forge Financial & Management Consulting

Not all partners are leaders and not all leaders will become partners.  Unfortunately, firms often put partners in charge of key initiatives, people, groups and processes, simply because they hold firm ownership.  Using partnership rather than strengths, interests, or talents as the determiner too often leads to poorly-led initiatives, unhappy partners, and confused, disconnected, firm members.  Let’s discuss a mindset shift that allows you to recognize how and when to disconnect ownership from leadership.

Creating a Culture of Optimism, not Fear

Heath Alloway, Director at Upstream Academy

Remaining positive during stressful, busy and changing times can be difficult. When you’re out of your comfort zone or low on time, pessimism can creep in. But attitude matters. And your outlook can affect not only your mental health, productivity and effectiveness but that of everyone around you – family, friends, team members and clients. Join us for a frank (non-Pollyannaish) discussion of how to achieve and maintain a proactively positive culture, fueling a belief that the best is yet to come.

1:45 – 2:00 pm Break
2:00 – 2:45 pm Concurrent Sessions (choose one of three)
From Zero to Hero: Relationship Building for Introverts

Keith Dolabson, Partner at Gursey Schneider LLP

When people think of networking, often they picture a room full of strangers they’re supposed to meet and impress in a set time limit, making useful contacts for career and firm growth.  So, introverts are out of luck, right?  Let’s take a new approach to relationship-building – one based on proactively building win-win connections more than witty conversations.  Keith will talk about how to approach interactions as interested, rather than interesting, to form strong, mutually-beneficial relationships that both individuals enjoy.

Where Did My Client Go? Strategies to Create a Client Transition Culture

Jonathan Clark, Tax Partner at RKL LLP

Done right, client transitions strengthen the client’s relationship with the firm, while developing younger staff.  So, what can you do to ensure transitions across the firm are smooth, effective, timely and expected? Join Jonathan as he discusses how to create a client transition culture – where everyone from the newest manager to the most experienced partner is encouraged to develop others and to create a plan to continue their own career growth by transitioning work and clients. 

Stop Ignoring It and Start Addressing It: Mental Health in the Workplace

Ifen Donovan, Licensed Clinical Mental Health Counselor Associate at Peace of Mind Counseling Services

Our industry (along with many other fields) is experiencing a mental health crisis.  The time for politely looking away as firm members struggle has passed.  Join Ifen for a candid discussion of how to recognize the signs you or a team member may be struggling, how to analyze firm cultural norms that may be affecting your firm’s collective mental health, and how to proactively work to create a firm and team that values and positively impacts your team members’ well-being. 

2:45 – 3:00 pm Break
3:00 – 5:00 pm Breakout Sessions (see your nametag for assignment)

Always one of the most popular features of Upstream conferences, our afternoon discussion forums provide an unmatched opportunity to share your firm’s greatest challenges and learn how other firm leaders have successfully dealt with the same difficulties.

5:15 – 6:15 pm Reception

Friday, July 12, 2024

7:00 – 8:00 am Breakfast

Full breakfast

8:00 – 8:10 am Welcome
8:10 – 9:25 am Success without Excess

John Sensiba, Managing Partner at Sensiba LLP

More is better, right?  Working for more clients, more money, more reach can be seen as your obligation as a firm member.  But is it success if you and your firm members don’t find joy or fulfillment in work?  When does success turn into excess?  Join John as he discusses how to take a different look at success – one that explores valuing and finding purpose in your firm’s impact on you, your clients, your firm members, and your community. 

9:25 – 9:40 am Break
9:40 – 10:40 am How AI & Tech Are Changing the Industry

Danielle Supkis Cheek, VP, Head of Analytics & AI at Caseware

The AI invasion has already happened.  Almost every tech development company has integrated AI into their offering (or has this in development).  So, what does that mean for firms?  How will these changes impact standards? How do you know how quickly to jump into new tech?  And, what should you be doing to prepare? Let’s discuss the impact new technology is having and will have on the profession, including opportunities, challenges, and the transformative potential (and risks) AI brings.

10:40 – 10:55 am Break
10:55 – 12:15 pm Changing Focus from Service-Provider to Relationship-Builder

Marty Brown, President and CEO at PYA

Reactive, compliance-related, “give me a call if I can help” client service won’t ensure long-term success.  So, how can you foster relationships that encourage clients to think of you when they need advice, need assistance with their business, or know someone who wants a firm recommendation?  Join Marty to discuss how his firm shifted focus from a service mindset to client relationship-building, and ways to make your client relationships deeper, more profitable, and more enjoyable (for you and the client).

12:15 – 12:30 pm Closing

Jeremy Clopton, Managing Director at Upstream Academy

2024 Sponsors

Abdo Compass is a real time, cloud-based data analytics SaaS solution that connects directly to your practice management system to provide you with dashboards for all your firm KPI’s.  No more running PM reports!  Manage your firm with data driven decisions, improve your key metrics, increase retention, and boost your profits.
PracticeERP (by goVirtualOffice) offers an all-in-one ERP designed to efficiently manage complexities of your CPA Firm with streamlined workflow management fully integrated with timers, time entry, logistics, WIP, billing and financials.  PracticeERP includes robust analytics, purpose-built for CPA Firm real-time business intelligence and dashboards to keep track of it all.


McGowanPRO, formerly NAPLIA specializes in professional liability insurance and risk management services for professional service providers. Our experienced staff in risk management will shop the insurance policy for you and explain the differences with each policy ensuring that you get the best value and coverage for your firm. Contact Stephen Vono
Tri-Merit serves leading CPA firms and their clients by providing Specialty Tax Services to identify and secure maximum credits, deductions, and incentives.
Partnering with leading CPA firms, McGuire Sponsel is a national specialty tax consulting firm that offers Fixed Assets, R&D Tax Credits, Global Business, and Location Advisory services. McGuire Sponsel strengthens CPA/client relationships by offering a trusted partnership for technical expertise across services that often fall outside traditional firm tax practices.
Beech Valley is a national, tech-enabled staffing firm that provides on-demand audit, tax and advisory consultants, including ex-Big 4 talent, to flex up for seasonal work, special projects or help scale growing service lines. With over 200k+ applicants on our gig-economy recruiting platform, we perform stringent aptitude and technical assessments to curate the top 2% of talent.
Materia is a generative AI platform built for public accounting firms. Materia helps firms reduce complexity, unlock untapped knowledge, and increase efficiency across all staff. Materia aggregates & organizes your firm’s internal documents, enabling trustworthy answers grounded in your firm’s proprietary information, as well as Materia’s library of authoritative guidance.


LCvista is the premier Learning & Compliance Management Solution built by firms, just like yours. With over 175 accounting firms in our community and 20+ integrated providers, we are bringing understanding and efficiency to firms’ learning and compliance landscape. Our mission is to continuously meet the evolving needs of accounting firms with compliance accuracy and ongoing collaboration.
After attending the HeadWaters Conference, you will be able to identify and implement improvements to your leadership development skills, as well as your firm’s leadership development processes.
Upstream Academy will recommend 13 hours of CPE credit for participants. Prerequisite: None. Skill level: Overview.
Upstream Academy is registered with the National Association of State Boards of Accountancy (NASBA) as a sponsor of continuing professional education on the National Registry of CPE Sponsors. State boards of accountancy have final authority on the acceptance of individual courses for CPE credit. Complaints regarding registered sponsors may be submitted to the National Registry of CPE Sponsors through its website: