IN this week's SME Focus a Yorkshireman explains why he decided to use the wealth he made in fund management to develop a social enterprise in Scotland.

Name: Peter Armitage

Age: 64

What is your business called? Ardoch Management Company

Where is it based? Gartocharn, Dunbartonshire

What does it produce, what services does it offer? For part of the year its 18 bedrooms, restaurant and complex of conference and event space are used by corporate clients to host day and residential meetings, seminars and training events. The money raised helps to finance the centre's other use as a resource for, mostly child-focused, charities. It is the Loch Lomond base for Columba 1400, a social enterprise that runs leadership courses for young people.

To whom does it sell? Corporations, SMEs, educational establishments, government agencies, private consultants and coaches, professional firms and charities working with young people.

What is its turnover? £135,000 in 2011. Our projected turnover for 2012 is £240,000

How many employees? Five at the moment, with plans to add one in the next 12 months.

When was it formed? May 2007

Why did you take the plunge?

In 2000 I decided I wanted to retire after a long career in portfolio management. I calculated that if I retired at 58, I should have enough time for new pursuits. I'd left school at 16 and worked in financial services all my life, so there was a strong urge to do something different. Six years after making the decision I quit the job I loved (managing global equity and convertible bond portfolios). Luckily I had minimal exposure to the steep share price declines that followed soon after.

This fortuitous timing resulted in an accumulation of more wealth than my family needed and, because I find the teachings of Buddha and Christ more attractive than conspicuous consumption, I resolved to give some of it back. I had in mind establishing an exclusive corporate conference venue with a socially worthwhile purpose and wanted to locate it in Yorkshire.

What were you doing before you took the plunge?

I had been looking for a location where I could invest and make my dream a reality. The idea had been many months in the planning but I needed a very specific site before proceeding. I got a call from Norman Drummond, a friend and the founder of Columba 1400, who urged me to come and inspect a property overlooking Loch Lomond. I travelled north, more as a courtesy than anything else because my heart was set on Yorkshire, but the moment I saw Ardoch I knew I had found the right place. Later, I discovered some of my ancestors were buried not far from Ardoch, so I can genuinely claim to be giving back to where I came from.

How did you raise the start-up funding? The acquisition of the Ardoch estate, refurbishing the existing buildings, erecting a new one, upgrading the land and planting trees cost several million pounds. I funded this and provided working capital from my personal wealth and then donated all these assets to two not-for-profit foundations.

What was your biggest break? Persuading life-long friends with many years' experience in hotel management to leave Yorkshire and live on site in Scotland to manage the business. My friend Robert, who I was at Leeds Grammar School with in the 1960s, and his wife Penny were the perfect choice. They have done a remarkable job, from supervising Ardoch over the first three years, when it was a muddy, noisy building site, to the present time when the focus is on customer satisfaction and growth.

What was your worst moment? It came close to the completion of a new building. A large, unplanned water storage tank had to be installed at the last moment to boost pressure to the level required for satisfactory operation of the fire sprinkler system. This caused a time delay and a big unbudgeted expense.

What do you most enjoy about running the business? Meeting an extraordinary range of interesting people. Well known personalities including The Princess Royal (patron of Columba 1400) have visited Ardoch and so have lots of executives, teachers and lively, fun-loving youngsters from schools in the UK and Switzerland. It has been a real joy meeting them all and I expect the buzz I get from the business to grow in tandem with the rising number of people coming to Ardoch.

Wat do you least enjoy? Having worked in the fast moving financial world, I find it difficult to wait for answers.

What are your ambitions for the firm? To grow it to an annual turnover of £400,000 and to give increasingly favourable terms to those charities that work with young people at Ardoch. Some of the growth will come from new customers with a similar profile to those we have already, some from repeat visits from satisfied customers and the balance from new prospects such as product/book launches, golfing, yoga and interfaith groups, family reunions, and visitors from North America, Japan and other countries where Scotland is known as an attractive destination. Homecoming Scotland 2014 and the Commonwealth Games should provide Ardoch with good opportunities too. When we reach the revenue targets the primary measure of success will be on the return on human rather than financial capital; in other words how successful is Ardoch in positively impacting the lives of young people.

What are your top priorities? To share a lifetime of bounty that began with a happy childhood; to play a role in narrowing the wealth gap; to encourage young people to reach their potential; to secure a long-term plan; to have fun doing it.

What could the governments do that would help? We don't need grants and we don't want to be players in the bureaucracy of seeking direct help, we just want to be in control of our own destiny. The best indirect help we can get is from the promotion of Scotland, the Loch Lomond and The Trossachs National Park and attracting/retaining major events in the region.

What was the most valuable lesson that you learned? Everything takes much longer than expected. Unexpected delays caused by weather, issues with the boiler, a collapsed ceiling and a multi-year programme to upgrade the land taught me that some timings are out of my control. I re-learned the lesson that one should expect the unexpected, live in harmony with nature's cycles and resist the temptation to be a control freak.

How do you relax? An evening at the opera, a classical concert or a sauna is relaxing but nothing beats Mount Athos (in Greece) and India for my inner peace. A chance encounter led me to Mount Athos, the Holy Mountain where the only female presence is the Virgin Mary. Spending several days in a monastery there and living at a completely different pace and rhythm (the monks live by the Julian, not the Gregorian, calendar) was truly enriching (read William Dalrymple's book The Holy Mountain to get a flavour). I've also attended Indian ayurvedic retreats. They gave me time to reflect on the responsibilities of those who have to those who haven't.