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BestPractices Conference

  • Overview
  • 2017 Agenda
  • 2018 Location
  • 2018 Sponsorship
  • Past Conferences


BestPractices 2018 will be held October 25-26, 2018 in Chicago Illinois. Watch for additional details soon!


Register Online

Paper Registrtion Form



Sponsors for the BestPractices 2017 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.
  Ernst & Morris is the nation’s oldest and largest firm dedicated to performing Cost Segregation and 179D Energy studies. E&M works with hundreds of CPA firms and has completed over 15,000 engineering based studies. Ernst & Morris offers superior service and technical assistance including complete audit support.
  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.
  AGN North America focuses on creating strong member-to-member connections to serve clients and help members to reach their goals through growth-oriented strategies and continuing professional education programs, from first year accountants through the partner group. Members receive support in practice management, superior client service (including access to experts and specialists), technology, marketing, human resources, and profit enhancement.
Anderson ZurMuehlen Technology Services brings 60 years of accounting firm experience into our services and our approach. We understand accounting firms - your operations and your clients. Our passion is to improve the lives of those we work with, and we are eager to share our expertise with you. With a suite of technology offerings, including IT Security, Desktop-as-a-Service and Business Intelligence, we form true partnerships with our clients to help them succeed.



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


Building Teams that Grow, Advance and Adapt Quickly

Historically, our profession has been slow to develop people. Is your firm focused on providing the training to help your best and brightest advance regardless of age or time in grade? If everyone in the firm performed like a partner (especially in client service and business development), can you imagine the benefits? Let’s discuss ways to ensure your people are advancing, growing and becoming more adaptable.





October 26, 2017  
7:00 – 8:00
8:00 – 8:15  
8:15 – 9:30  
Sam M. Allred, Director at Upstream Academy, LLC

Our profession is changing at a dizzying pace and your attitude toward and approach to
skill development must change with it. The best new talent want training that doesn’t
just provide technical expertise but also motivates, develops, and prepares them to begin
making a difference for clients early in their careers. Providing your best people the
opportunity to build skills and advance quickly allows you to fill gaps in your junior ranks,
and gives you a competitive advantage in attracting and retaining top talent. Join Sam as
he discusses strategic changes you must make to create a culture of rapid skill
development in your firm.

9:30 – 9:45
9:45 – 11:00  

Joey Havens, Executive Partner at Horne, LLP


Promoting innovation as a core value won’t get you there. For your firm to consistently
and successfully adapt to ongoing changes and take advantage of evolving opportunities,
everyone must feel encouraged, empowered – and maybe even compelled – to innovate.
But how do you ensure everyone is consistently looking for ways to improve the firm and
address new issues in the marketplace? Join Joey as he discusses how to take “paper
changes” and turn them into “mindset changes.” He’ll share his practical experience in
promoting a "BeBetter philosophy" and share principles for building a culture of

11:00 – 11:15
11:15 – 12:30  

Dena Jansen, Partner at Maxwell Locke & Ritter, LLP


Almost any biography includes a list of people credited with helping propel the individual
to the level of success that warrants public attention. And those listed on the dedication
page are often the mentors, teachers and coaches who inspired greatness. A skilled
coach helps individuals maximize strengths, minimize weaknesses, and become more
effective and productive. But what does it take to be the kind of coach who truly makes a
significant difference in people’s lives and careers? Join Dena as she discusses principles of effective coaching that might help get your name on the next dedication page.

12:30 – 1:30
1:30 – 2:45
Concurrent Sessions – Select One of Five Sessions

Tim Bartz, Director at Upstream Academy


Imagine what your firm could accomplish if every person worked toward firm
success, rather than just individual success? You could take on more ambitious
initiatives, pass on expertise more easily, increase employee engagement, create
clients loyal to the firm rather than individuals, and even recruit the next
generation more successfully. Don’t keep making excuses for those unwilling to
embrace a team approach. Join Tim as he discusses specific, practical, and
actionable ways to move from a collection of individuals to a unified team with a
culture that encourages and rewards a one-firm mentality.

Martin Brown, President at PYA

If you’re looking for “out of the box” thinking, have you thought of looking
outside your box – by hiring non-CPA professionals capable of growing practice
areas in your firm? Many top firms have successfully incorporated non-CPAs into
their firms with wonderful results – more innovative thinking, a greater diversity of
talent, more extensive industry knowledge, and enhanced client service. But not
everyone can make a successful transition into our profession. So how do you
find, recruit and successfully integrate a non-CPA asset into your firm? Join Marty
as he explores the possible benefits, proactive ways to start the process and
pitfalls to avoid.

  Harnessing the Power of Diversity  

Jonyce Bullock, Advisory Practice Leader at Squire & Company,


Unfortunately we’re all biased. Studies show that given two similar candidates,
we’ll repeatedly pick the one most similar to us in race, age, gender and
experience – and this can seem a logical choice since “they fit right in.” If your
potential client base is homogenous, your services are static, or your firm is
already capitalizing on diversity, this wouldn’t be an issue. But no one wants a
stagnant firm and promoting those who think just like you, won’t propel your firm
into the future. Join Jonyce as she discusses how you can harness the power of
diversity to advance your firm and prepare for the future.


Steve Castino, Shareholder at Vestal & Wiler


Every firm wants to believe their top talent will be ready to lead when the time
comes. But many fail to proactively ensure their best people continually
develop both their personal assets and their value to the firm. When your top
talent is already doing well, it’s easy to say “just keep doing what you’ve been
doing.” But that won’t propel them to the next level and may instead lead them
to believe opportunities at your firm are limited. Join Steve as he discusses how
to create meaningful, forward-thinking, purpose-driven career plans that will
help your best people build exciting careers at your firm.


John Sensiba, Managing Partner at Sensiba San Filippo, LLP


Getting all of the partners on board simply isn't enough. For your firm to make
real progress, everyone should feel connected to the firm's vision, strategy and
goals. So how do you ensure your vision reaches into every corner of the
firm? How do you make sure every firm member has – and realizes that he or
she has – an important role to play in moving the firm forward? And how do
you ensure that they don’t lose productivity in the process? If you want your
team engaged in the future of the firm, you won't want to miss John’s insights
on this topic!

2:45 – 3:00
3:00– 5:00  
Sam Allred, Tim Bartz, Marty Brown, Steve Castino, Joey Havens, Dena Jansen, Tim Larsen 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
October 27, 2017  
7:00 – 8:00
8:00 – 9:15  
John O'Leary, #1 National Bestselling Author & Speaker
We live in a world where accidental living – mindlessly moving through routines, wasting
time staring at phones, or complaining about our jobs, families and society – has become
the norm. Just because we got out of bed this morning, does not mean that we are truly
living. How would your day, impact and output change if you lived a radically inspired
life, every single day? Bestselling author John O’Leary was nearly killed in a devastating
fire at age nine. Now he challenges participants to shift their perspectives. Discover the
power of taking ownership of your life and the impact it will have on your bottom-line. 
9:15 – 9:30
9:30 – 10:45  
John O'Leary, #1 National Bestselling Author & Speaker
10:45 – 11:00
11:00 – 12:15  
Sam Allred, Director at Upstream Academy
Tim Bartz, Director at Upstream Academy
John has given us the inspirational story that inspired his bestselling book; now let’s put
that inspiration to work. Join Sam and Tim for a discussion of how to apply the principles
and philosophy he described to your work with clients and staff—and to your life.
12:15– 12:30



This year’s conference will be held at the JW Marriott Chicago, located at 151 West Adams Street, Chicago, Illinois.  Reservations can be made online or by calling (312) 660-8200.  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 26. 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 11 miles from Midway International Airport and approximately 17 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 25 and from 8am to 12noon on Friday, October 26. 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 John Hancock Center 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 2017 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 Kelsey at kelseym@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 BrochureBestPractices Conference BrochureBestPractices 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 addressed to the National Registry of CPE Sponsors, 150 Fourth Avenue North, Suite 700, Nashville, TN, 37219-2417 or by visiting the web site: 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.