My wife and I like good food. A lot more than we should, really. We spend a disproportionate bit of our budget on fancy food served in tasteful restaurants. We live in Houston, one of the top restaurant cities in the world, and we work our way down a long list of great places pretty methodically.

We’ve found that the finest ingredients, cooked and served in the most amazing atmosphere, is nothing compared to decent, local, food, cooked at home by kind people who care about you.  The same can be said for your HR functions.

You see these shrimp? (Sorry, crappy iPhone pic) Those giant blue shrimp were sold to me in the small town where I work sometimes, an hour from the Gulf Coast. Two guys drove up in a truck and parked at the closed up corner gas station. They come on Thursdays, and hang around for a while drinking beer out of cans covered with paper bags, shooting the shit until their six pack or their coolers of shrimp and fish run out or their customers stop coming around.

The smaller pink shrimp are from Key West. They cost $3.00 a pound more and came from a very fancy grocery store here in Houston. They were purchased the same day. The taste test – well, too bad you can’t taste a blog post, you’d know the difference right away.

The guys only sell shrimp in 7 pound bags, so I took some around to our friends. Our friends gave us a glass of iced tea, a good visit, a sack of strawberry plants and a jar of home-pickled eggplant. The visit wasn’t very efficient, but the strawberry plants were a nice surprise and the eggplant tasted great with dinner.

Nobody’s going to get rich shrimping, and selling their catch out of the back of a truck. It’s not scalable, as they say. But  that’s what works for those guys. They’re not looking to supply restaurants in Houston: it’s too far and they’d have to work too hard. And though pickled eggplant wasn’t on my list of Things That Sound GREAT for Dinner, we really enjoyed it.

Be careful, when developing your HR function, not to suck all the life out of your company, all the opportunities for a little conversation, a talkative coworker who offers you something you’ve never tried but really works well. Chances are good that your homegrown system, built with a deep appreciation for your company’s particular circumstances and culture, will work much better than some off-the-shelf fancy system, if you’re not planning to become a Fortune 500 giant. Efficiency can be highly overrated when building a company, and a life, worth savoring.