Upstream Academy logo

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

additional information coming soon!

July 11-12, 2024 at the Fairmont Chicago Millennium Park

Thank you to everyone who made HeadWaters 2023 a huge success!  We are planning for 2024, so check back soon!


Add-on Event: Choosing Your Focus One-Day Workshop

July 12, 2023 in Denver, Colorado

We’ll hold a one-day Choosing Your Focus Workshop on July 12, 2023 (prior to our HeadWaters Conference in Denver Colorado).

Many firms are feeling a capacity crisis, and many individuals report high levels of work-related stress.  During this one-day workshop we’ll cover the essential points of the Choosing Your Focus program and help individuals create a proactive plan to take control of their time, energy and focus.

The one-day workshop is $975 per registrant ($825 for UAN members). 

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 2023

Thursday, July 13, 2023

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 – 9:30 am Before New Strategies, You Need a New Vision

Jeremy Clopton, Director at Upstream Academy

If you don’t know where you’re going, it’s not going to much matter how you get there – yet individuals, teams and firms often start making plans and setting strategy before they’ve clearly identified (and articulated) their vision.  Join Jeremy as he discusses how to craft and communicate a compelling vision that will help you and your team find the excitement, energy and motivation to work at making that vision a reality.

9:45 – 11:00 am Leading with Significance: Creating a Magnetic, People-First Culture

Joey Havens, Managing Partner of Strategic Growth at HORNE

Most firms list people as a priority, but too often firm members don’t feel the impact of this philosophy. Don’t settle for a “good enough” culture. Join Joey as he shares some of the innovative ways they are creating a people-first culture that makes firm members reluctant to leave: transitioning away from traditional firm metrics, implementing fearless flexibility, using full-potential coaching and following through on a goal of over-recruiting by 10%.

11:15 – 12:30 pm Keeping It Real: Leading with Authenticity

Bethmara Kessler, Former Head of Integrated Global Services, Campbell Soup Company

When you show up at work do you keep it real or do you morph into an alternate version of yourself? Leadership can be a tenuous balancing act between managing the personas that you project to others and meeting the challenges of the moment. The masks and armor that you wear as a leader can erode the authenticity of the person beneath the facade, directly impacting your effectiveness and how your teams show up in the workplace.


1:30 – 2:45 pm Concurrent Sessions (choose one of four)

Practice Development in Non-traditional Niches: With Accountants and With Other Professionals

Marty Brown, President and CEO of PYA

As firms trend toward more business consulting and less traditional accounting, effective hiring and business development becomes even more challenging. The skills required for non-traditional niches may not be as easily defined and firms may need to reassess traditional processes. Marty leads a firm with a successful advisory practice which annually produces over 55% of firm revenues. Join Marty as he shares his insights on how to pinpoint skills, locate candidates, develop business, and adapt to help your firm find success.

Maintaining a Growth Mindset in Both Prosperity and Uncertainty

Heath Alloway, Director at Upstream Academy

When business is scarce, most firms list growth as a priority.  But, when times are good and work is rolling in, this focus often becomes fuzzy – with opportunities ignored, referral sources allowed to dry up, and proactive growth put on the back burner.  A growth mindset is more than bringing in business, it’s ensuring you have the right business and holding the door open for opportunity.  Join Heath to discuss how to develop a long-term growth mindset.

Making Mergers and Acquisitions Successful

Bruce Zicari, CEO at The Bonadio Group

Potentially a great way to grow your firm, mergers and acquisitions are also minefields for the poorly prepared. So, why do some succeed while others crash and burn?  How can you determine if a potential opportunity is a good fit for your firm?  And, how can you increase the likelihood of successful culture integration post-acquisition?  Although, no one’s found a magic formula for ensuring success, Bruce will discuss some key components and best practices.

All About Value: Creating, Providing, and Realizing Value

Harry Plack, Managing Member at Plack Group, LLC

Client relationships matter.  But if you can’t provide value, your clients may tell you how much they’ll miss you and take their business elsewhere.  The ability to successfully envision, vet, build and launch new services provides a huge competitive advantage.   Join Harry for a discussion of proven principles, best practices, and hints and tips to help you successfully brainstorm new ideas, evaluate their viability, and create the value your clients crave.


2:45 – 3:00 pm Break

3:00 – 5:00 pm Discussion Forums: Shared Challenges, Shared Solutions

Sam Allred, Heath Alloway, Marty Brown, Jeremy Clopton, Courtney DeRonde and John Sensiba

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. Bring your most vexing issues and a notepad, and be ready to return to the office with great new ideas for solving your firm's challenges!

5:15 – 6:15 pm Reception

Friday, July 14, 2023

7:00 – 8:00 am Breakfast

Full breakfast

7:15– 7:45 am Mental Health Discussion 

Randy Crabtree, Partner at Tri-Merit, and Jeremy Clopton, Director at Upstream Academy

Mental health has become a more pressing (and publicly-discussed) issue in accounting firms. Join Randy and Jeremy for a candid discussion about their efforts to safeguard their own mental health, the signs you or a team member may be struggling, and what you can do to address similar issues. They’ll also discuss how Randy’s experiences led him to reevaluate his strengths and role in the business in a way that positively impacted both him and his firm. 

8:00 – 9:25 am Zigging to Achieve Your Vision When Everyone Else Says to Zag

Courtney DeRonde, CEO at Forge Financial & Management Consulting

Persistence has its virtues, but sometimes changing course ensures a better outcome than doggedly pursuing a vision that no longer fits your career, team or firm. But, when should you zig? And, how do you the weigh pros and cons to ensure you’re making the right choice? Join Courtney for a candid discussion of lessons learned from her career- and firm-changing decision to split her firm to pursue a different vision and how those lessons can benefit your firm.

9:25 – 9:40 am Break

9:40 – 10:55 am Aligning Operational Objectives with Overall Firm Strategy

John Sensiba, Managing Partner at Sensiba San Filippo, LLP

When the strategy meetings are finished and everyone understands the plan, it can be feel like you’re done. But plans often meet a slow death when operational objectives are (intentionally or unintentionally) aimed in a different direction. Join John as he discusses what to consider, who to include and how to ensure that plans are aligned across departments, projects and roles to help increase collaboration, optimize resources and make sure everyone’s moving in the same direction.

10:55 – 11:10 am Break

11:10 – 12:30 pm Time-Tested Strategies for Change

Sam Allred, Director at Upstream Academy

Sam has spent his career providing value and thought leadership to the industry, individual firms and our team. Join us as he shares insights from the last 40 years of changes he has witnessed, participated in and helped drive. He’ll share some of the hinge points that have made the biggest impacts on the profession, how firms’ approaches have shaped their response and their success, and how these same strategies can be applied to future problems.


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.
WasatchAir will guide your launch of a cloud financial management practice that helps clients understand and optimize their ever-growing cloud spend. Learn how you can utilize your trusted advisor status and core finance competencies to pilot clients on their cloud journey, while creating highly leverage revenue streams for your firm. Contact
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.
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: