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Emerging Leaders Academy - Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

Program Basics

When does the program start and what is the registration deadline?
Calendar - May 15The program begins in June of each year with a registration deadline of May 15. There is a $250 late fee per participant for registrations after May 15. The first event for participants is the June Leadership Training Forum, Using Time Wisely, which also includes an overview of the program. The first event for guides is the Introductory Guide Webinar.

How long is the program?
Emerging Leaders Academy is a three-year program that starts in June of each year. 

What is the best way to learn more about the program?
You can get additional information by visiting our website at www.upstreamacademy.com/ela_info.asp or by contacting Upstream Academy at 406-495-1850 or info@upstreamacademy.com.  We also periodically hold informational conference calls.  Let us know if you would be interested in joining us for the call by emailing us at info@upstreamacademy.com.

Who runs this program?
Sam Allred and Tim Bartz Jeremy Clopton Bio Tim Bartz Bio Sam Allred bio Sam Allred, Director at Upstream Academy, interacts with hundreds of CPA firms around the world each year via professional conferences, partner retreats, and conference call presentations.  Sam is widely regarded as one of our profession’s top strategic thinkers.

Tim Bartz, Director at Upstream Academy, is arespected consultant and energetic speaker, Tim’s passion for meaningful change is infused and tempered by the realism born of his many years as Anderson ZurMuehlen’s visionary leader.

Jeremy Clopton, Director at Upstream Academy, has a passion for engaging all generations to move their firms forward. His real-world experience comes both as a consultant and in the audit departner of a top accounting and consulting firm and he uses this experience to provide a vision for improvement.

How do I register for the program?
After January 1, you can register online by going to the main ELA webpage

What is the cost of the program and what kind of payment do you accept?
Before May 15, the program is $3,400 per year or $2,900 per year for Upstream Academy Network members.  After the May 15 deadline, the price increases to $3,650 and $3,150 respectively. We accept Visa, MasterCard and check payments.

Are there any program discounts?
Upstream Academy Network members receive a discounted price for each participant.  UAN membership is $3,500 per year.  To learn more about Upstream Academy Network membership, go to the UAN member page or contact Georgia at 406-495-1850 or georgiac@upstreamacademy.com

Are there any additional costs not built into the program?
The program enrollment fee includes all materials, webinars and registration at one Upstream event per year.  Cost for travel and lodging for the Upstream event is not included.  Participants are also required to purchase (or borrow) two books a year.


What do you do with the photos we send?
The participant photos are used to create a directory that is sent to all registrants to encourage networking. 

Who is the ideal candidate for the ELA program?
The ideal candidate for the program is a manager, senior manager or new partner who is seen as a future firm leader.  Candidates should be eager to learn and cognizant of the honor the firm has given them by picking them for this program.

How do you recommend we choose participants and inform them of their selection?
We have created a Sample Participant Nomination document that you can use internally to nominate participants for enrollment or ask for applicants to apply. We've also created a Sample Participant Invitation the firm can use to inform candidates of their acceptance into the program.

What is the typical makeup of the participant group (partners, senior managers, managers, other)?
The group begins the program with two-thirds of the participants at manager or senior manager level and a little less than a third at partner level.  By year three, many of the participants have been promoted and partners make up a little over half of the group. 

Graph of title distribution

How many participants have gone through the entire program and how many are currently enrolled?
When the Class of 2019 graduates this year, over 980 participants will have completed the program. Currently we have 550 participants enrolled in the program from 120 firms in the US and Canada. .

Will participants still get value from the program if they are not in tax or audit departments?
The Emerging Leaders Academy program is designed to teach leadership skills to accounting firm leaders, regardless of their particular career path.

What percentage of participants are men and women? 
We currently have about 60% men and 40% women in the program.

Chart of Men and Women in the Program

Program Components

How do participants pick goals?
BullseyeEach year, participants set and accomplish goals in these five areas:
  • Business Development
  • Client Management
  • Personal Effectiveness
  • Team Development
  • Leadership Development
Upstream provides a list of goals each year.  Participants complete the mandatory goals as well as selecting from a menu of other goal choices in each area.  Guides work closely with participants, helping them select proper goals and holding them accountable for accomplishing those goals.  Guides have the authority to modify goals to fit a particular participant’s career path.

What topics are covered during the monthly Leadership Training Forums?

Year One:  Personal Effectiveness and Client Management Personal Effectiveness
  • Using Time Wisely: Key Principles of Time Management, plus an overview of the Emerging Leaders Academy program
  • Personal Integrity: A Key Component of Great Leadership
  • Capitalizing on Personal Strengths and Talents
  • Performing Damage Control for Areas of Personal Weakness
  • Setting and Accomplishing Worthwhile Goals
  • Basic Contributions to the Firm: Budgets, Billings, Collections, and Ideas
  • Client Management: Selecting and Keeping the Right Clients
  • Moving From Historian to Trusted Advisor
  • Providing Exceptional Client Service
  • Helping to Make Client Transitions Successful
Year Two: Team Development and Business DevelopmentTeam Development
  • Learning to Give and Receive Constructive Feedback
  • Effective Delegation: How Leaders Help Others Grow
  • Conducting Effective Performance Evaluations
  • Principles of Effective Coaching
  • Dealing Effectively with Underperformers
  • Avoiding the Bandwagon: Examples of Leadership Courage
  • Business Development: Getting Better Every Day
  • Committing to a Personal Business Development Plan
  • The Proper Way to Build a Business Network 
  • Becoming a Recognized Expert
Year Three: Leadership and Financial ManagementLeadership Development
  • Becoming a High Yield, Low Maintenance Firm Member
  • The Importance of Personal Example: Acting Like a Leader
  • Avoiding the 10 Worst Habits of Otherwise Good Leaders
  • Understanding and Improving Firm Processes
  • The Proper Way to Approach Strategic Planning
  • What All New Partners Need to Know
  • Your Role in Improving Client Payments
  • Benchmarking Statistics for High Performance Firms

What happens if a participant can’t attend a live Leadership Training Forum due to scheduling constraints?
Participants are required to listen to all Leadership Training Forums.  The Forums are recorded and participants automatically receive access to the recording of each forum. 

If they are unable to attend the live call, they can view the recorded webinar, or listen to the MP3 of the call (available on the participant page online).

Are participants given networking opportunities?
Each year participants are given a directory of ELA participants, including contact information, photo and personal bio.  Additionally, participants may attend one Upstream event each year.  We recommend Year One and Year Two participants attend the Emerging Leaders Conference since this conference is geared to them and provides the best networking opportunities with other ELA participants. 

How much travel is involved?
LuggageTo reduce travel costs and ensure that learning is continuously given in easily digestible doses throughout the year, most training is done remotely.  Participants are encouraged to attend one face-to-face Upstream event each year of the program.  These events are deliberately scattered across the United States for ease of travel.

Which conference should the participant attend?
To help participants determine the best Upstream event to attend we have created an Event Comparison document with more information on each event.

How is participant progress tracked?
Participants, Guides and Advocates have access to an Online Progress Tracking program.  Participants can use this program to enter information on goals and projects.  Guides and Advocates can use the program to track participant progress.   Additionally, because each participant has a guide from the firm, progress (or lack of progress) is more easily recognized and corrected.  Periodically, Upstream checks with participants and their firm leaders regarding the program's impact. 

How do you ensure that participants apply what they learn to their behavior in the firm?
The program ensures that lessons learned are applied in a variety of ways:
  • After each Leadership Training Forum, participants are required to answer two questions:  “What did you learn?” and “What are you going to do about it?” 
  • Participants are accountable to their guide who can see if they are learning or only going through the motions
  • Participants (with the approval of their guide) have the ability to modify goals and their project to ensure that they are applicable to their particular career paths
  • Upstream staff periodically checks in with firm leaders and participants to determine if the learning is making a difference in the participant’s career

What do past participants and firm leaders say about this program?
We have received excellent responses to the program. Here are just a few comments. You can see more in the videos on the ELA page.
“As the guide for a first-year ELA participant, I’m very pleased with the results we’ve seen to date. I’ve taken an active role as a guide, have participated in many of the Leadership Training Forums, and feel like I’m getting as much out of them as our participant is. I wish I’d had access to a program like this when I was working towards becoming a partner!” Kathy J. Klang, Managing Partner of Cummings, Keegan & Co., P.L.L.P.   Kathy Klang
Jeff Anderson   “Emerging Leaders Academy has been a great complement to our own leadership and supervisory training programs.  ELA helps establish an attitude of self-accountability and provides shareholder candidates with good networking opportunities.  As we move forward, it will be one of the final building blocks we use to prepare our emerging shareholders for ownership. We plan for our current participant to become a coach for those who follow in her footsteps, even as she finishes her own three-year program.  In time, we see value in leveraging future participants as coaches, all in an effort to strengthen our leadership culture.”  Jeff Anderson, CEO of Contryman Associates, P.C.

What is the time commitment for program participants?
We ask participants to commit to approximately 50-90 hours a year, consisting of the following:
  • Time BreakdownTen one-hour Leadership Training Forums with optional ½ hour post call discussion (10-15 hours)
  • Once a month check-ins with their guides (6-12 hours)
  • One optional Upstream event (13-16 hours plus travel time)
  • Completion of a list of goals each year (10-20 hours)
  • Completion of a project each year (10-20 hours)
Participants are eligible for 23 hours of CPE in Year 1 if they attend all live Leadership Training Forums and attend one Upstream event.

Guides and Advocates

What is the time commitment for a guide?
Guides are asked to commit to approximately 10-15 hours a year, consisting of the following:
  • Four one-hour Guide Training Webinars (4 hours)
  • Once a month check-ins with the participant (6-12 hours)
ELA Guide Time CommitmentGuides may spend an additional 13-31 hours with optional activities:

What are the requirements to be a guide?
To assist firms in assigning guides, we have developed an ELA Guides document, which lists guides' responsibilities and characteristics.

I've heard a rumor that guides can attend your conferences for a reduced price. Is this true?
Yes! To thank guides for their commitment to developing emerging leaders and allow guides to continue their own leadership development, we offer the special price of $600 for our HeadWaters Conference or our BestPractices Conference.

Is each participant required to have a guide?
Yes, each participant should choose or be assigned a guide from within the firm.

How many participants can one person guide?
The guide position requires a minimum time commitment of 10-15 hours per participant.  We believe that most firm leaders can only effective guide 1-3 participants.

Can guides attend the conferences?
Guides are welcome to attend the HeadWaters Leadership Conference, or BestPractices Conference.  The Emerging Leaders Conference is only open to ELA participants. 

How do you help the guides?
Each year, Upstream holds four one-hour webinars specifically for guides.  Additionally, they are invited to contact Upstream any time they need additional assistance with their guide duties.

What are the requirements to be an advocate?
To assist firms in assigning an advocate, we have developed an ELA Advocates document, which describes recommended Advocate duties and characteristics.

Is each participant required to have an advocate?
the advocate position is optional, but we strongly encourage the firm to assign an advocate if they have more than two participants. This helps coordinate the program and give participants another “go to” person.

Our Guarantee

What if I enroll in the program, but don’t like it or feel that it’s not what I anticipated?
As with everything Upstream Academy does, your satisfaction with Emerging Leaders Academy is guaranteed. If you are not completely satisfied with the value you receive, we will, at your option, either refund your money or accept that portion of the fees that reflects your level of satisfaction.

What if an ELA participant is unable to finish the program due to an unexpected event?
Participants will be refunded their registration fee in full if Upstream Academy is notified of their withdrawal in writing by June 30.  After this date, participants will be eligible for a prorated refund of their registration fee.


Here's What Participants Have Told Us About the Program