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HeadWaters Leadership Conference

  • 2021 Overview
  • 2019 Agenda
  • 2019 Location
  • 2019 Sponsorship
  • Past Conferences

HeadWaters 2021




Sponsors for the HeadWaters 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.

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.



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


Payroc is one of the largest Payment Processing companies in the Nation. They get CPA firms paid from their clients more quickly and economically, while simultaneously giving firms' clients options for paying their bill. They will help you reduce your DSO, save you money, and increase your clients' satisfaction.

  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.
  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.
  LeaseCrunch provides cloud-based lease accounting software for CPA firms, designed to help organizations implement the new lease accounting standards, ASC 842 and IFRS 16. Designed by CPAs, former Big 4 public accounting auditors, software development veterans and a former member of the FASB, LeaseCrunch is easy enough for anyone to use.


Creating a Client-Centric Firm

Most firms value clients and promote the idea that their client service is the best available.  But many hope that having the intention and making the statement is enough.  If you put the words on the wall, the attitude will follow – right? 

Join us as we discuss how to ensure your firm becomes client-centric by changing attitudes, implementing processes and creating a client-centric culture that naturally promotes and produces exceptional client service.

During the HeadWaters Leadership Conference 2019, industry experts will provide step-by-step guidance to becoming and staying more client-centric.


Thursday, July 11, 2019  
7:00 – 8:00 Breakfast  
8:00 – 8:15 Welcome and Logistics  
  Tim Bartz, Director at Upstream Academy  
8:15 – 9:30

Client Centric: Powered by Culture

  Martin Brown, President of PYA  

In today’s marketplace, your competition is just a click away. Smart brands understand their strongest differentiator is building relationships through client-centric culture. But you can’t simply impose a culture. Firm culture is built over time through leadership by example and stories of people empowered to stop labeling themselves and instead become problem solvers. Once instilled, a client-centric culture not only yields deeper, long-term relationships and referrals, but also internal benefits (stronger recruiting, employee retention and higher morale). And it’s infectious. Join Marty as he shares how to get there.

9:30 – 9:45 Break  
9:45 – 11:00

How to Say Anything to Anyone

  Shari Harley, Founder and President of Candid Culture  

Too often people become so focused on not offending anyone that they shy away from necessary communication. With insight and wit, Shari will provide eight easy steps to say anything to anyone. Get the words to ask clients and employees what they need and want, provide hard truths to help clients and team members succeed, give feedback to underperforming and high-potential employees, and resolve even the most difficult conflicts – and have these difficult conversations in a way that resonates.

11:00 – 11:15 Break  
11:15 – 12:30

Inviting Opportunity: Moving from Gate Keeper to Gate Opener

  Sam Allred, Director at Upstream Academy  

Firm stakeholders have a responsibility to protect clients. But many firm leaders become unpassable gate keepers by inadvertently “protecting” their clients from other firm experts, new service areas, resources outside the firm, and even hard truths. Join Sam as he explores how to empower and promote a “gate opener” mentality that invites innovation, growth and new opportunity both for the firm and the client.

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

Numbers Matter: Moving Your KPIs to a Client-Centric Model

  Steve Castino, Executive Shareholder at Vestal & Wiler  

You only need to look at the recent bogus account opening scandal at Wells Fargo to realize that the numbers you track influence behavior. So are you tracking the numbers that will make a difference in client service? Or are you tracking numbers that matter to the firm but may impede client service? Join Steve for an insightful look at how using the right KPIs can drive a more client-centric firm.


Insight through Analysis: Better Client Service through Data


Jeremy Clopton, Director at Upstream Academy


It’s easy to get overwhelmed by the volume and variety of data available – and clients are struggling with this same information overload. Data holds insights, if you know where to look. So how can you track and analyze the right numbers without getting bogged down in the weeds? Join Jeremy for an enlightening discussion of how to strategically assess data and leverage technology to provide better (more advisory) client service.


Turning Clients into Ambassadors: Creating Raving Fans

  Katie Sterling, Partner at Wertz & Company LLP  

Your firm has staunch supporters who need little prompting to speak well of you. But raving fans – clients who are so excited about your firm that they want to brag about you to anyone who’ll listen—well, for most firms that’s a different story. What is it that transforms a client into a raving fan (and keeps them raving)? Join Katie as she explores how to turn content clients into enthusiastic members of your unpaid sales force.

2:45 –3:00 Break  
3:00 – 5:00 Discussion Forums: Shared Challenges, Shared Solutions  
  Sam Allred, Tim Bartz, Marty Brown, Jeremy Clopton, Darci Congrove, 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 12, 2019  
7:00 – 8:00 Breakfast  
8:00 – 9:15 Who Determines Success? Rethinking Your Engagement Evaluations  
  John Sensiba, Managing Partner of Sensiba San Filippo, LLP  

The engagement seemed to go well – profitable, on-time, and with everything signed and delivered. Your team breathes a sigh of relief and moves on. Which is why everyone is confused when the client’s next engagement is with another provider. Join John for an in-depth discussion of how you can more effectively evaluate engagements to ensure success not just from the firm’s point of view but also the client’s.

9:15 –9:30 Break  
9:30– 10:45

Who Are These People? Improving Your Client Knowledge and Relationships


Darci Congrove, Managing Director of GBQ Partners LLC


Relationships take work – and while you might not go into counseling to improve client relationships, there are proactive, actionable ways to ensure that your team grows to know clients better – including their staff, their culture and their top strategic issues. Join Darci for insights on how to improve your client processes to ensure you more easily forge deep, long-lasting and mutually beneficial relationships with your best clients.

10:45 – 11:00 Break  
11:00 – 12:15

Making a Difference: Helping Clients Get Better at What They Do

  Jeremy Clopton, Director at Upstream Academy  

If you want to improve client loyalty, cross-sell more services and cement your client relationships, you need to be able to help your clients – in ways that they can see and appreciate. Today’s savvy client needs more than the basics of accurate tax and financial statement information to feel their accounting firm can help them get where they want to go. Join Jeremy for a discussion of how you can measurably help clients get better – in ways that they value and that will make an impact on their business.



The conference returns to Denver, the Mile High City, this year.

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 seven professional sports teams showcase this city’s active spirit.

Hotel Information
Hyatt Regency Denver at Colorado Convention Center located at 650 15th Street in Denver, CO. Reservations can be made online or by calling 800-233-1234. You will need to specify Upstream Academy to receive the special conference rate of $229.00.

We recommend making your reservation by June 11, 2019. 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 27 miles from Denver International Airport.


Travelers can now use A Line, the new rail service from Denver International Airport to LoDo's (lower downtown) Union Station and back, courtesy of Regional Transportation District (RTD). The Denver Airport Rail has six stops along the way and takes approximately 37 minutes and is $9 each way.

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.



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. (https://www.denver.org/things-to-do/denver-attractions/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 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 2019 Sponsorship (7 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 2019 will be attended by 120-140 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 seven 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 15, 20189
  • 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 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 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 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.