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BestPractices Conference

  • Overview
  • 2019 Agenda
  • 2019 Location
  • 2019 Sponsorship
  • Past Conferences

We have decided to cancel BestPractices 2022.

We hope to see you in 2023!




Sponsors for the BestPractices 2019 Conference
Ernst & Morris Cost Segregation   Tri-Merit serves leading CPA firms and their clients by providing Specialty Tax Services to identify and secure maximum credits, deductions, and incentives.
  Practice Engine™ combines a strong technical emphasis with close client relationships to secure and retain a substantial list of top firms as clients. We achieve this through our browser-based Practice Management system that is suitable for all sizes of firms who are looking for a strategic product that will meet their current and future needs. Practice Engine™ provides this using the latest database and web technology.



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 svono@mcGowanpro.com

Sick of your average technology? Anderson ZurMuehlen Technology Services improves your IT experience by taking your technology to the next level. Our solutions are built specifically for accounting firms. Join our referral program and learn how you can provide first class technology to your clients.
  Looking to better serve clients, Ernst & Morris and McGuire Sponsel have joined forces. This merger, formed by choice and opportunity, brings two of the most trusted consulting firms together. We look forward to continuing to partner with you and collaborating on future opportunities.

Shifting Your Mindset to Become an Anticipatory Firm

Sometimes what we think we know is the biggest barrier to improvement. Making the changes necessary to thrive in the future will be almost impossible if your firm’s assumptions about how our profession works are stuck in old paradigms.

Join us for BestPractices 2019 and industry experts will provide step-by-step guidance to becoming anticipatory rather than reactionary.



Wednesday, October 23, 2019  
8:00 – 5:00
Thursday, October 24, 2019  
7:00 – 8:00
8:00 – 8:15  
8:15 – 9:30  
Bob Bunting, Principal at RL Bunting Consulting

Complacency and a wait-and-see attitude were made for another time before change became so rapid. To stay relevant and competitive you can’t continue to do what you did last year (no matter how profitable it may have been) and you can’t wait for someone else to figure out the changes your firm needs. Join Bob for a session designed to get your attention and help you to think about (and plan) your firm’s future.

9:30 – 9:45
9:45 – 11:00  

Kim Boic, Program and Change Management Director at Plante Moran, PLLC


Change continues to impact professional service organizations and more is coming. In many cases, significant investments are made in new technologies or processes to move your organization forward.  So, how can you provide a clear, persistent, realistic vision of the benefits of change that compels everyone to constantly look for new ways to become more adaptable and accept new ways of delivering services?  Join Frank for an insightful look at how to ensure your firm doesn’t just tolerate change, but embraces it.

11:00 – 11:15
11:15 – 12:30  

Sam Allred, Director at Upstream Academy


It’s not about keeping up with the competition. It’s not even about outdistancing the competition. It’s about creating your own path designed to take you where you want and need to go as an organization. Join Sam as he discusses how to visualize your situation in all aspects of operations, team development and client service to become your own kind of organization. Learn to think and act independently.

12:30 – 1:30
1:30 – 2:45
Concurrent Sessions – Select One of Three Sessions
  Creating a Culture for Innovation  
  Heath Alloway, Director of Business Development at BKD  
  Most firm leaders recognize the importance innovation holds for the future of our profession and client service, but they often don’t view themselves as innovators capable of generating the next “big idea.” Join Heath for this highly interactive session on how to create a culture where anyone can be the next innovator. He’ll explain a process for generating a large number of new ideas, finding the best options for development and turning them into new firm revenue streams.  
Jonyce Bullock, CEO at Squire & Company, PC

Doing the same thing year after year is easy, safe and ultimately promotes stagnation, stifles creativity and discourages your rising stars from working to their potential. Your best people will leave if they aren’t challenged and growing on a regular basis – and with the changes facing firms, you need engaged and forward-thinking professionals. Join Jonyce for this thought-provoking presentation on challenging your team at all ages and stages to stretch and grow beyond what they thought possible.


John Cummings, Human Resources Director at Anderson ZurMuehlen & Co., P.C.


Too many leaders operate on the philosophy that the “devil is in the details.” So they spend their time managing the minutia. Trying to keep tight control of everything denies less experienced firm members the growth opportunities they need, hamstrings your team’s ability to take on more complex problems, and ensures that your growth potential is never realized. Join John for an enlightening discuss of how to fully empower your team.

  Growing Scared  

Dena Jansen, Founder and Voice of Dena Speaks


As you seek the innovation required for organic growth and sustained success in the CPA profession, you can’t ignore the fear factor. With every change you face, fear can rear its ugly head and stop progress in its tracks. Join Dena as she shows you how to make friends with fear and the opportunities it presents. You can grow and evolve your business, your network, and your confidence when you give in to fear and choose to grow scared!

2:45 – 3:00
3:00– 5:00  
Sam Allred, Tim Bartz, Jonyce Bullock, Marty Brown, Dena Jansen and Tim Larsen
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
Friday, October 25, 2019  
7:00 –7:30  
  Dena Jansen, Founder and Voice of Dena Speaks  
7:00 – 8:00
8:00 – 9:15  
Jeremy Clopton, Director at Upstream Academy
Being anticipatory is a great firm attribute. But, it’s difficult to be anticipatory when you don’t have all of the information. How do you make a decision and get consensus, while ensuring you have the agility needed to change course as new information emerges? Join Jeremy as he focuses on how to make the tough decisions without all the facts. Attendees will leave with a fresh perspective on making better strategic decisions when time is of the essence and information isn’t fully available.
9:15 – 9:30
9:30 – 10:45  
Carla McCall, Co-Managing Partner of AAFCPAs
  The desire to improve is nothing new. In fact, it’s one of the hallmarks of a high performance firm. But often it’s hard to move from desire to action. You’ve heard a lot of ideas on how to become more innovative, forward-thinking, agile and anticipatory. But how do you move from great ideas to great execution? Join Carla as she discusses how to put innovation to work by taking those great ideas and putting them into action with concrete, strategic plans.  
10:45 – 11:00
11:00 – 12:15  
Tim Bartz, Director at Upstream Academy
In an environment that seems to be changing by the minute – leaders need to turn panic into focus. You can find your organization paralyzed by chasing too many things in too many directions. Great organizations plan and strategize, but they also do something others fail at – they remain disciplined enough to follow the plan. Join Tim for an insightful look at how you (and your team) can instill passion and perseverance into “running the play that’s called."
12:15– 12:30



This year’s conference will be held at the Renaissance Chicago, located at 1 W. Wacker Drive, Chicago, Illinois.  Reservations can be made or by calling (312) 372-7200.  You will need to specify Upstream Academy to receive the special conference rate of $297.00 per night. We recommend making your reservation by September 25. If you have any problems with hotel reservations, please don’t hesitate to contact us for assistance. 

Air Travel Information
The hotel is located approximately 12 miles from Midway International Airport and approximately 16 miles from O’Hare International Airport.

Taxi fare averages $40 from O’Hare International Airport and $35 from Midway International Airport. If you prefer to rent a vehicle, reservations for airport car rentals can be made in advance through rental agencies.

Conference Meal Information
The conference will run from 8am to 5pm on Thursday, October 24 and from 8am to 12noon on Friday, October 25. Upstream will provide a continental breakfast starting at 7am each day, breaks on both days, and lunch on Thursday. You and your adult guest are welcome to join us for a networking reception at 5:15pm on Thursday. Participants are on their own for dinner.

Special Meal Requests
If you have special meal requests, please contact Kelsey Mundt at (406) 495-1850 or email at kelseym@upstreamacademy.com.

Conference attire is business casual.

Chicago Area

Chicago’s magic lies in its mix: sophisticated yet friendly, bustling city streets adjacent to long stretches of green parks and sparkling blue Lake Michigan, and a stunning year-round array of things to see and do, unique in all the world.  Chicago is more walkable than most large cities, and the hotel is located in the heart of downtown in close proximity to world renowned shopping, the Chicago Theater District, museums, and restaurants.

With an endless assortment of theatre, music, dance, restaurants, shopping and nightlife at your fingertips and able to match every taste, budget and mood, come and discover why so many visitors fall in love with this city every year.

 If you are planning to extend your trip to include some sightseeing, you may find the following sites of interest:

Discover a state-of-the-art collection of architecture, landscape design and art that provide the backdrop for hundreds of free cultural programs including concerts, exhibitions, tours, and family activities. In Millennium Park, you’ll find a new kind of town square – a lively, spectacular gathering spot located in the heart of the city and a destination for Chicagoans and visitors alike.

Chicago’s many fine cultural institutions are fascinating places to learn and explore – and three of them are conveniently located on the beautiful Museum Campus just south of Grant Park. Here, on the city’s lakefront and just steps apart, you can see the world’s largest and most complete T. rex at The Field Museum, the space and sky theaters at Adler Planetarium, and, at Shedd Aquarium, the spectacular Oceanarium which recently completed a major renovation.

  T Rex
T-Rex Field Museum
© Chicago Convention & Tourism Bureau

In the block south of Millennium Park, The Art Institute of Chicago encompasses more than 5,000 years of human expression from cultures around the world as well as the largest collection of impressionist paintings outside of Paris. Founded in 1879, the Art Institute opened its newest addition – the 24,000-square-meter Modern Wing housing renowned Modern and Contemporary masterpieces – in May 2009.

The 360 Chicago is a landmark building known for its pyramid shape and crossed outer beams. From the 94th floor John Hancock Observatory and the open-air Skywalk, you’ll enjoy sensational views of the city, lake, and, on clear days, the surrounding states of Indiana, Michigan, and Wisconsin. And the multimedia Sky Tour comes in adults’ and kids’ versions.

The Museum of Science and Industry - the largest science museum in the Western Hemisphere, spanning nearly 14 acres - offers over 800 captivating interactive exhibits including the U-505 submarine, a working coal mine, a Boeing 727 airplane, and much, much more.


No trip to Chicago would be complete without taking in a show in the legendary Loop District. Catch a production straight from Broadway at the Bank of America Theatre and Auditorium Theatres. Another treasure in the Loop theater district is the Goodman Theatre. The Goodman – whose productions, artists, and programs earned a Special Tony Award for Outstanding Regional Theatre - consistently produces unsurpassed classic and contemporary works. The legendary Chicago Theatre, whose famous C-H-I-C-A-G-O marquee lights up State Street. plays host to concerts, comedians, special events, and theatrical productions.

Chicago Theatre © Chicago Convention & Tourism Bureau
Navy Pier is the place where all of Chicagoland and tourists from around the world have come together since 1995 to enjoy the beauty and the thrills of a day on Lake Michigan. From rides to restaurants, exhibitions to entertainment, shopping to dining cruises and tour boats, Navy Pier has it all - in a location unlike any other! Take a ride on the 15-story tall Ferris wheel, catch a movie at the IMAX® Theatre, or just kick back and enjoy the incredible feats of talented chinese acrobats in Cirque Shanghai.
Lincoln Park © Chicago Convention & Tourism Bureau


BestPractices Conference 2020 Sponsorship (7 available) $3,500 Apply to become a conference sponsor

Benefits of Sponsorship

  • Complimentary access to conference sessions for up to two representatives (Discussion Forums on first day not included)
  • Introduction of representatives at the beginning of the event
  • Announcements throughout the conference acknowledging sponsorship and requesting
    attendees visit the sponsor’s display
  • Draped display table with chairs outside of General Session room for marketing materials
  • List of conference attendees
  • Chance to interact with participants during the conference meals, breaks and reception
  • Banner and link on Upstream’s website in the conference section

Why Participate as a Sponsor?
Sponsorship brings your company high-profile recognition and exposure to top decision-makers in CPA firms. Sponsorship is limited to seven companies.

Who Will Attend? BestPractices will be attended by 130-150 Managing Partners, Partners, Managers, Firm Administrators and HR Professionals from top CPA firms across the United States and Canada. The conference will consist of sessions led by nationally recognized speakers and firm leaders.

Lodging and Logistics
Sponsors are responsible for all travel arrangements and hotel costs. Upstream will provide a draped
display table with chairs. Sponsors requiring electricity, Internet access, etc. at their booth are responsible
for coordination with the hotel and any additional cost.

When your application is received, an Upstream representative will contact you to confirm availability on a first come, first serve basis.

  • Upstream reserves the right to accept or reject any sponsor application.
  • Applications for sponsorship with sponsorship fee must be received by September 28
  • To be featured on the Upstream Academy website, please send your company logo along with a brief description of your company and/or services (no more than 50 words) to info@upstreamacademy.com.

BestPractices Conference Brochures

This people oriented two day conference is held each fall. Here are a few brochures from past conferences.

BestPractices Conference Brochure BestPractices Conference Brochure

Other Information


Here's What Attendees Have Told Us About BestPractices


Your Satisfaction Is Our Goal

As with everything Upstream Academy does, your satisfaction with the BestPractices Conference is guaranteed. If you are not completely satisfied with the value you receive, we will, at your option, either refund your money or accept the portion of those fees that reflects your level of satisfaction.


CPE Sponsor

Upstream Academy will recommend 13 hours of CPE credit for participation in this course. Prerequisite: None Skill Level: Overview Learning Objectives: After attending the BestPractices Conference you will be able to identify and implement improvements to your team develpment skills, as well as your firm’s team development processes.

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: www.nasba.org.


CPE Sponsor

The HR Certification Institute has pre-approved this activity for recertification credit towards the aPHR®, PHR®, PHRca®, SPHR®, GPHR®, PHRi® and SPHRi® certifications. The content of the activity submitted has met the criteria of the Approved Provider Program. This course qualifies for 5.0 HRCI recertification credits.

The use of this seal is not an endorsement by the HR Certification Institute of the quality of the activity. It means that this activity has met the HR Certification Institute’s criteria to be pre-approved for recertification credit.