Heart monitor
This cardiac psychologist soothes stressed-out entrepreneurs--and his talk isn't cheap.
Patricia B. Gray

NEW YORK (FORTUNE Small Business) - Gary York knew his life was a wreck; he just didn't know whom to blame. Was it his employees - or his relatives - who had driven him to alcoholism, dangerously high blood pressure (200/130), and chronic fatigue?

None of the above, actually.

How stressed are you?
1. Conditions at work are unpleasant or sometimes even unsafe.
Very Often
Entrepreneurs pour their hearts out to psychologist Wayne Sotile, whose niche yielded healthy returns last year.
Consulting/speaking: $559,000
Clinical practice: $72,000
Book royalties: $30,000
Part-time help: $32,000
Rent: $12,000
Office supplies: $15,300

"Wayne made me realize that the problem in my life was me," admits York, 62, the CEO of Neighbors Stores, a 26-unit convenience-store chain based in Pilot Mountain, N.C. "He has been my rock."

York is referring to Wayne Sotile, a cardiac psychologist based in Winston-Salem, N.C. (sotile.com).

In the past five years Sotile, 55, has doubled annual revenues by focusing on a specific niche: teaching entrepreneurs and other high achievers to manage their hard-driving personalities and fast-paced lives and avoid heart disease.

"We've been working downriver too long, fishing out the bodies and hoping to revive them," says Sotile, who grew up in Donaldsonville, La. "We need to be upriver, helping folks before they end up on a stretcher in the ER."

Through weekly therapy, Sotile has saved some businesses too. One $40-million-a-year medical practice was so badly fractured that two of its top surgeons had launched into a fistfight in the operating room; the hospital was threatening to revoke their privileges.

"These guys had strong personalities and big egos," recalls a hospital administrator who was close to the conflict (and who asked not to be named). "They had no clue what it meant to be in a partnership until they got lessons from Wayne."

Sotile estimates that 60% of his patients are physicians, compared with 10% about 15 years ago. He has seen a rising number of lawyers and accountants too.

"Chronic tension and anger raises their risk of heart disease three to four times above the average for men and women their age," Sotile says, even among those who were once thought too young to face such dangers. Among young adults between 15 and 34, sudden cardiac death has risen 10% during the past decade.

Last year, Sotile brought in revenues of nearly $700,000, up from $360,000 in 2004. His hourly rate has risen to $350. (When he started in 1979, he charged $40 an hour.) Insurance giant State Farm recently hired him to help 300 agents manage stress. A dozen of his clients pay $3,000 for daylong therapy sessions.

The author of eight books, Sotile gives three speeches a week, at $8,000 a pop. His most requested subject: "Happy, Healthy, and High-Performing." That describes him.

"I've learned to practice what I preach," Sotile says. "You have to take time to enjoy the good stuff."


How stressed are you? Take the quiz.

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