It's too bad that the poor soul who coined the phrase "working smarter, not harder" didn't own their own business. While this often-quoted cliché does prompt us to think creatively and to seek new solutions to problems and challenges, it doesn't offer any real advice on what constitutes the right way to do either.
After all, there are a lot of places in business where the "smart" choice and the "hard" choice might look a lot alike.
Case in point - you, as an owner, took my advice and created a system for your employees to do a specific task. On the other hand, you've never done it yourself. One day, that employee called in and you are stuck doing the task.
And it is horrible - inefficient, time-consuming, and slow.
You've got a decision to make - do you work "smarter" and not adhere to the rules and systems that you created or do you work "harder" and carry the banner of a clueless boss who refuses to change his or her ways out of spite or ignorance?
Simple - do both!
To do that, though, you need to be able to do two things - have created a system that allows you to manage underperforming methods or tactics and you have to have created a culture that encourages your employees and partners to come forward and suggest or implement those changes.
Of course, this is a theoretical discussion if you're the only one in the company and a tough rationale to design systems and processes for employees you've never hired. In a lot of ways, it is the ultimate "chicken and egg" - do you build systems that only you will use or do you simply ad-lib every action until you actually need to train someone how the job is actually done?
...And that brings us back to "working smarter not harder."
When you open the doors to your new company, you're likely to have mentally prepared to have to work hard with the idea that over time, your hours will decrease because you'll know how to create the most "work" or accomplish the most tasks in the shortest time.
That's called experience and, honestly, it doesn't count for much - it's really just a refinement of what you know and how fast you can get from point A to point B. Here's an observation about that: it doesn't make you a better owner or entrepreneur, just a faster employee.
On the other hand, if you take that knowledge, using those "extra" hours you've created because you're able to do more work in a shorter time, and document the processes you've personally used to save time into a methodology and system to be able to quickly train new employees on how to accomplish the job, that's really working "smarter".
The real problem with this cliché is that it gets tossed around so casually as an answer to all business problems and yet, it has so little to do with how an entrepreneur needs to operate. When you opened your business, you made the decision, like it or not, to work hard to create a company and an enterprise. If you want that business to prosper, hard work is needed to not only create the capital and income you need, but also the operating systems that the company will use. Guess what? That's still in the "hard work" phase.
"Smarter" shows up after you've put processes in place to effectively run your company without you there every minute of the day.
In other words, "working smarter, not harder" is not a snapshot of how to do a task, it's a timeline of the process to be an effective leader and entrepreneur.