Us entrepreneurs definitely experience our share of hard knocks. Sometimes running a business can be downright hellish. But everyone in Corporate America has also heard about the benefits of working for yourself--a flexible schedule, no red tape, the freedom to follow your passion, and answering to yourself. They're all true.

And once I actually took the leap, I happily discovered even more fantastic benefits that I had no idea about. Here are a few of my favorites:

1.     Mini vacations tacked on to business travel. Running an international business allows me to travel to business meetings all over the world. But my destinations usually sound a lot sexier than my actual schedule, which includes long, exhausting flights, meeting after meeting, and then more long, exhausting flights! While there is no way to avoid this grind completely, I have deliberately made an effort to tack on at least one day to explore and enjoy the cities I visit whenever possible. A full vacation would clearly be preferable, but rather than sacrificing the perfect for the good, I've learned to schedule and cherish these mini-versions.

2.     Quality time with family. One of the most daunting things about running a business is the sheer lack of time you get to devote to yourself and your family. However, now that the quantity of time I spend with my family has dwindled, I find that I use the little time that I do have much more deliberately. Whether it's dates with my husband, play time with my kids, or brunch with my sister, I am much more in the moment. I could stress out about the fact that I have only 45 minutes before my next business meeting starts. But instead, I've taught myself to cherish these precious moments and use them to get even closer to my family.

3.     The true comforts of airport lounges. Airport lounges are known for their free drinks and snacks, business centers, Wi-Fi, and quiet and comfortable environment. But lounge access can be even more of a goldmine for us small business owners. For instance, in order to keep costs down and put my kids to bed as many nights as possible, I try to schedule back-to-back meetings and minimize overnight stays. Being able to shower in a well equipped lounge bathroom has allowed me to be alert and fresh in essential meetings, even if they are scheduled immediately after a long flight. And learning that most airlines grant access to their partner airlines’ lounges has been a great find and expanded my access to such comforts.

4.     The joy of dealing directly with decision makers. When I was still working in traditional corporate jobs, I frequently longed to speak directly to the movers and shakers rather than wasting time navigating the hierarchy. I just knew that things would be more efficient and effective if I simply had regular access to the people who ultimately made the decisions. And don't get me wrong--generally, that's true. But I've also discovered another great thing about having access to the people at the top--they tend to be amazingly interesting people. They have usually leveraged their business success to dive deep into all types of fascinating hobbies and interests that give me another perspective on exactly how they are so successful.

I love leading a small, international business, and the adage about membership having its privileges has held true. While there are of course many unique challenges that must be tackled, I have certainly enjoyed discovering the unexpected pleasures of business ownership as well.

Weekly Wine Tip: If you're seeking the ultimate indulgence in wine, then check out Chocovine: a Cabernet Sauvignon subtly blended with rich dark chocolate from to create a decadent, silky smooth sipper or to pour over ice cream. Simply wonderful!