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HeadWaters Leadership Conference

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

HeadWaters 2014 - July 10-11, 2014 at the Ritz Carlton in Denver, CO.


Thank you to everyone who joined us for HeadWaters 2017!

HeadWaters 2018 will be held July 12-13 in Park City, Utah. Watch for additional details!


HeadWaters Conference brochure

Envisioning the Firm of the Future    




Sponsors for the HeadWaters 2017 Conference
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.
  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.

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 Cost Segregation


1st Global believes that accounting, tax and estate planning firms are uniquely qualified to provide comprehensive wealth management services to their clients. As a premier research and consulting partner to select CPA and tax planning firms, 1st Global provides the education, technology, business-building framework and client solutions necessary to grow strong wealth management enterprises inside the nation’s top firms.

Conference session

Facing the Future with Confidence

Despite the discouraging predictions of experts, we believe your firm can build a promising future. You have exciting new tools, a strong economic environment and a new generation of ambitious, forward-thinking professionals. But you can’t sit back and wait for change – instead you need to grab hold of the new information, technology and opportunities available. Rather than doing things as you have in the past, you need to position your firm to take advantage of the inevitable changes.

Join us for HeadWaters 2017 as we discuss how to stay relevant, competitive and profitable.


Thursday, July 13, 2017  
7:00 – 8:00 Breakfast  
8:00 – 8:15 Welcome and Logistics  
  Tim Bartz, Director at Upstream Academy  
8:15 – 9:30

Getting Ready for the Fast Future – The Anticipatory CPA

  Tom Hood, CEO of Maryland Association of CPAs and the Business Learning Institute  

Experts agree that our profession is facing unprecedented changes – and we can’t deal with these changes by doing the same things we’ve always done. To thrive in this new age of fast-paced change and growing uncertainty, you need to learn a new competency – how to accurately anticipate the future. During this session, Tom Hood will discuss his insights on what’s coming and share thoughts on how you can anticipate these trends and move from being a crisis manager to an opportunity manager. You won’t want to miss this insightful look at the changes ahead.

9:30 – 9:45 Break  
9:45 – 11:00

There’s a Way Out of the Hours Racket: Re-Thinking Your Pricing Strategies

  Michelle Golden River, Principal at K Coe Isom  

Get away from unnecessary income caps, justifying fees to clients after the work is done, and deterring clients from calling with questions because they’re “on the clock.” There’s an alternative to hourly billing. Michelle explains how Advanced Pricing Methods de-commoditize your services, positioning worth based on solutions you deliver rather than the time it takes to deliver them. Learn
how these methods deepen trust, expand relationships, and give clients a sense of purchase control that actually encourages them to spend more. Finally, see how to stop doing work you won’t get paid for; take control of scope creep to outperform our industry’s standard 20%+ write-offs.

11:00 – 11:15 Break  
11:15 – 12:30

Anticipating the Curves: Creating an Adaptive Culture

  Sam Allred, Director at Upstream Academy  

You can’t plan for every contingency. Even with the best predictive indicators, it’s impossible to guess with much accuracy what changes our profession may face in the next decade (or even next year). Rather than frantically attempting to prepare for every eventuality, adaptive firms encourage a culture of innovation, mobility and proactive client service that allows them to move forward regardless of the changing landscape. Join Sam as he discusses the hallmarks of an adaptive firm and practical, actionable steps you can take to move your firm toward a less reactive, more proactive approach.

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

Put Passion to Work in Your Firm: Connecting Individual Interests to Firm

  Steve Castino, Partner at Vestal & Wiler  

Passion gives us purpose, driving our effort, attitude and desire. So can you imagine the impact of having everyone on your team passionate about making progress? The key to getting the most from all your people is to connect their passions to the work the firm is doing for clients and the community. But how do you do this? Join Steve as he discusses how to discover passions that intersect with firm vision, how to integrate individual passions with career goals, and how to effectively customize adaptable careers that take full advantage of individual passions.


Successfully Implementing New Pricing Strategies


Michelle Golden River, Principal at K Coe Isom


You’ve heard the basics of Advanced Pricing Methods during Michelle’s general session. Now dig into the details of successful implementation. As you’d imagine, there’s not just“one right way” to go about it. Join her in open discussion about what it takes to institutionalize “pricing in advance.” She’ll cover practicalities gleaned from implementation in her own firm of almost 400 people, and in several other Top 100 and Top 200 firms. Considerations include infrastructure (pricing and payment processes, tools, support), cultural shifts, and how to champion and stay strong in the face of challenges inherent in trailblazing. 


Women’s Initiatives Are Not Just for Women


Melissa Hooley, Partner at Anton Collins Mitchell LLP and Current
Chair of the AICPA’s Women’s Initiatives Executive Committee


Too often when firms discuss “women’s initiatives,” they bring up maternity leave and flexible work schedules – then close the book on the subject. But today’s accounting firms have a lot more to discuss. How do you create a culture that promotes women in leadership? How do you ensure your firm is attractive to parents – both men and women? And how can your firm adapt to the next generation’s priorities? Join Melissa as she discusses what firms need to do to address the barriers and challenges of propelling the next generation of women (and men) to a higher level of leadership in their firms.


Don’t Fear the Tech: The Top Trends to Add Adaptability and
Growth-Capacity to Your Firm

  Luke Muszkiewicz, Senior Manager, Business Intelligence,
Anderson ZurMuehlen

New technology can be intimidating, disruptive and expensive – but without it, you may lose the ability to capitalize on new growth opportunities. With so much new tech available, it’s easy to get lost in the weeds and end up feeling like you are investing in the wrong tech at the wrong time. Join Luke as he discusses the top technology trends you need to understand and explains how to determine if you’re ready for the jump. He’ll give you the advantages, the potential problems and the best way to move forward to create a more mobile-friendly, responsive, growth-oriented firm.          


Attest Services and Trusted Advisor - Can I Really Do Both?

  Jim Woy, Partner at Anderson ZurMuehlen  

Many attest service providers have resigned themselves to the idea that when we talk about “trusted advisors” they’ll get very little from the conversation. After all, how can an auditor function as a trusted advisor and maintain professional standards of objectivity and independence? Join Jim as he tackles this challenge and explains the opportunities and boundaries. Join us for this important presentation and help your firm and your attest professionals understand what's acceptable and what's not, then eliminate the excuses.        

2:45 –3:00 Break  
3:00 – 5:00 Discussion Forums: Shared Challenges, Shared Solutions  
  Sam Allred, Tim Bartz, Steve Castino, 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 Reception  
Friday, July 14, 2017  
7:00 – 8:00 Breakfast  
8:00 – 9:15 Developing and Executing Strategy  
  Bob Bunting, Principal at RL Bunting Consulting  

We’ve all tried the strategy of hope – creating plans based more on wishes than
facts and hoping it all works out. But with competition and client demands rising each year, our firms’ strategic plans need a leave nothing to chance approach. So how do you identify winning strategies and turn those strategies into results? Join Bob as he discusses how to create an effective strategic plan, including specific steps to laying the groundwork, engaging change agents, preparing stakeholders, allocating resources and ensuring you have the traction necessary to succeed.

9:15 –9:30 Break  
9:30– 10:45

Making the Leap: The How and Why of Becoming an Expert


Dena Jansen, Partner at Maxwell Locke & Ritter, LLP


In the past, individuals in our profession usually became generalists – and could expect reasonably successful careers. Today, as accounting software improves and clients have more options, generalists are in less and less demand. By necessity the profession is moving toward more specialization. So when will you make the jump? If you do it right, becoming an expert offers you greater personal autonomy, a ready-made client and referral base, and the chance to focus on an area that really excites you. Join Dena for an insightful look at both the why and the how of becoming an expert.   

10:45 – 11:00 Break  
11:00 – 12:15

Adopting a "Better Every Year" Mindset: The Key to a
Confident Future

  Sam Allred, Director at Upstream Academy  

A firm’s culture is the unwritten handbook for members and it’s assembled page by page not only though official policies and communication but by how the firm (and its leaders) reward results, manage priorities and deal with issues. So does your culture encourage and reward those who are striving to make every aspect of your firm better every year? Or, are you unintentionally telling staff that good is good enough? Join Sam as he discusses how to engage everyone and help them embrace the belief that they can and should proactively work to make themselves and the firm better every year.



Park City

Urban sophistication meets outdoor adventure in the Mile High City.  300 days of sunshine, a thriving art and cultural scene, diverse neighborhoods, and the Rocky Mountain backdrop combine for the world’s most spectacular playground.  Denver offers stunning architecture, award-winning dining and unparalleled views, all within walking distance from its famed 16th Street pedestrian mall.  Upscale shopping awaits at Cherry Creek, while Denver’s eight professional sports teams showcase this city’s active spirit.

Hotel Information
This year’s conference will be held at the Grand Hyatt Denver, located at 1750 Welton Street, Denver, Colorado. Reservations can be made online or by calling 800-223-1234.

You will need to specify Upstream Academy to receive the special conference rate of $239.00. We recommend making your reservation by June 13. If you have any problems with hotel reservations, please don’t hesitate to contact us for assistance.

  Denver Sheraton
Air Travel Information
The hotel is located approximately 24 miles from Denver International Airport.

Rocky Mountain National Park


Taxi rides average a minimum of $55.00 from Denver International Airport to downtown Denver. If you prefer to rent a car, reservations for airport car rentals can be made in advance through car rental agencies.

Conference Meal Information
Breakfast and lunch will be provided on Thursday and a buffet-style breakfast will be provided Friday. 

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

Rocky Mountain Park - photo courtesy of Visit Denver  
Denver Area Activities

Explore the Denver Art Museum, the heart of the city’s cultural offerings. Known for its wide range of Native American art, this museum also contains the only major Asian art collection in the Rocky Mountains. (www.denverartmuseum.org)

Take an exciting stroll along the 16th Street Pedestrian Mall, Lined with 200 trees and 50,000 flowers, this festive, mile-long pedestrian promenade has 28 outdoor cafes and offers Denver's best people-watching. I.M. Pei designed the gray and pink granite pathway to resemble the pattern of a diamondback rattlesnake. Hop on the bus – they're free and stop on every corner. After dark, horse-drawn carriages clatter up and down the Mall. (www.denver.com/16th-street-mall)

Larimer Square is trendy block of Victorian buildings, home to chic shopping, dance clubs, a comedy club, outdoor cafes and a dozen of Denver's best restaurants. For 40 years in downtown Denver, it's hip to be at the "Square." (www.larimersquare.com)

Denver was founded at Confluence Park as a gold mining camp in 1858. Today, the river park is the heart of Denver's 850-mile bike trail network, and is surrounded by attractions. Gear up for the mountains at the REI Flagship store; ride the Platte River Trolley to the Downtown Aquarium to see stingrays and sharks; eat and drink in the nearby neighborhoods of Riverfront, LoHi and Highlands; or catch some thrills on the Mind Eraser at Elitch Gardens – Denver's downtown theme park.

Pedicab at Larimer Square

Larimer Square - photo courtesy of Visit Denver

Lions and tigers and bears – and so much more, on lovely grounds make the Denver Zoo the fourth most popular zoo in America. Go underwater with polar bears at Northern Shores, or eyeball-to-eyeball with a gorilla in Primate Panorama. Predator Ridge recreates the plains of Africa with a pride of lions, while Tropical Discovery is rainforest teeming with crocodiles and gila monsters. Coming soon: Asian Tropics, a new 10-acre home for the Zoo's elephants and rhinos (www.denverzoo.org)

The Denver Museum of Nature & Science inspires curiosity and excites minds of all ages through scientific discovery and the presentation and preservation of the world's unique treasures. The DMNS is the fourth largest museum in the U.S; a maze filled with treasures of the earth – dinosaurs, dioramas, space exhibits, science experiments, a digital planetarium, IMAX theatre and touring shows (www.dmns.org/about-us)


Carved from towering red rock monuments, the 9,000-seat Red Rocks Amphitheatre is one of the world's most renowned concert venues and has hosted everyone from the Beatles to Bruce Springsteen. Listening to a concert here is on the "bucket list" of every true music fan. When there's no concert, the Visitor Center has a museum and Rock 'n' Roll Hall of Fame, while the surrounding park has hiking trails that weave in, around and over the colorful red rocks. (www.redrocksonline.com)


  Red Rocks Amphitheatre
Red Rocks Concert - photo courtesy of Visit Denver

Denver is one of only two cities to have eight professional sports teams:

Denver Sports Teams Denver Broncos NHL Colorado Avalanche NBA Denver Nuggets MLS Colorado Rapids MLL Colorado Outlaws NLL Colorado Mammoth Glendale Raptors MLB Colorado Rockies

For more information on things to do and see in Denver visit:

Visit Denver: the Official Travel and Visitor Bureau

HeadWaters Conference 2017 Sponsorship (6 available) $3,500Apply 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 by Upstream 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

Who Will Attend? HeadWaters 2017 will be attended by 180-200 Managing Partners, Partners, Senior Managers and Managers from top CPA firms across the United States and Canada. The conference will consist of sessions led by nationally recognized speakers and firm leaders.

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 five companies.

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 June 30, 2017.
  • 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.

HeadWaters Conference Brochures

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

HeadWaters Conference brochureHeadWaters Conference brochureHeadWaters Conference Brochure



Here's What Attendees Told Us About Past HeadWaters Conferences


Your Satisfaction Is Our Goal

As with everything Upstream Academy does, your satisfaction with the HeadWaters 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 HeadWaters Conference you will be able to identify and implement improvements to your leadership develpment skills, as well as your firm’s leadership 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 7.5 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.