John J. Dignam – The Success of Mentis Sciences

Success Stories |

John F. Dignam headshotStarting Point

Located in the historic Mill District of downtown Manchester, Mentis Sciences is an engineering firm which provides advanced material design and manufacturing capabilities to Department of Defense customers. Mentis specializes in the design, development and testing of advanced composite materials with a goal of providing unique flexibility, rapid development and prototyping for various composite applications.

John F. Dignam
John F. Dignam founder of Mentis Sciences

Mentis Sciences, Inc. was founded in 1996 by John F. Dignam, following more than thirty years of service at the Army Materials Research Lab, where he served as the Director of Missile Materials.

John F. Dignam spent most of his lifetime promoting national security and developing the most effective material systems to aid in countering global threats. He founded Mentis Sciences to continue promoting innovation, expertise, and emerging materials and manufacturing technologies that will enhance U.S. security and promote economic growth. He was a well-respected leader, mentor, and motivator, always driving the Mentis team toward success for the benefit of the nation.
His legacy continues under the strong and visionary leadership of John J. Dignam, who brings unique and innovative technical expertise to solving some of the nation’s most daunting engineering challenges. The core values of ethics, integrity, community service, and commitment to excellence instilled by John F. Dignam live on with John J. Dignam and the Mentis team, and are apparent in every aspect of the company’s structure, personality, and operations.

mentis sciences nhThe Mentis team is familiar with the enormous responsibility that rests on those who work in the national security realm, and whose systems and technologies are integral to the success or failure of U.S. operations. Changing the lives of service man, wounded veterans and those in their local community has always been an integral focus of their work.

Community Focus

internship programMentis Sciences Internship Program recruits local high school students in good academic standing who reside in the HUBZone area of Manchester, NH. Successful youth with good attitudes and high motivation to work and learn have come through various avenues including non-traditional avenues like the Manchester Police Athletic League, The Salvation Army, and Manchester’s Office of Youth Services.
Mentis makes a serious commitment of its resources to support the internship program by providing short courses in STEM related disciplines, student engineering activities and mentoring activities. In result of these courses, Mentis Sciences started to see a gap in STEM education. Biology and Life Science concepts. were often the focus of science in the classroom, technology often included a smart phone app and Engineer was nonexistent. Our interns and every student deserves to be introduced to STEM concepts with tools and resources that allow them to experience concepts hands-on and in a collaborative environment.

With this vision for our students, Mentis transferred skills used in their own manufacturing facility every day, and descaled the concepts and tests into one integrated unit. Mentis has developed an integrated STEM toolkit that configures to complete 40 STEM tests. With limited lab space and budgets for lab testing equipment being tight, the Mentis Sciences Engineering Toolkit (MSET) departs from the high cost limited functionality of current educational testing systems. The MSET offers a unique view into the world of material testing and physical science.

In many ways, the internship program and new shared vision has provided Mentis employees a new sense of purpose in their work mentoring interns, and seeing the results of their efforts truly make their jobs more meaningful and satisfying. This enrichment program has proven to be beneficial, providing life-changing experiences for the interns as well as Mentis employees.

Vision: Investing in STEM Education

Through valuable partnerships with the New Hampshire School District and the University of New Hampshire STEM Discovery Lab, Mentis Sciences will continue to invest in strategic partnerships and resources to continue to integrate the Mentis Sciences Engineering Toolkit into local middle schools, high school, colleges and universities. We believe in the next generation, and we have the tool to bring to life STEM concepts and harness your student’s endless potential.

What was the best advice you were given when you first started (or took over) the company?

I recall many conversations with My Father from when I was very young.  The consistent theme of the seemingly infinite discussions was honesty.  He told me to find a quiet space, shut out the world and perform an honest assessment of your capabilities, strengths, weaknesses, likes, dislikes and figure out who you are.

What advice would you offer to new entrepreneurs based on your personal experience? 

Interesting question.  Every entrepreneur must understand the difference between requirements and expectations:  requirements are binary, expectations are personal.  A business is a living, breathing, entity and must be treated as such.

Max De Pree once penned: “The first responsibility of a Leader is to define reality.  The last is to say Thank You.  In between the two, The Leader must become a Servant”.

We stand on the shoulders of those who came before us.  You must build a good foundation if you are destined to support those who are to follow.

The traditional hierarchical business model places the CEO on the top, supported by Vice Presidents, Managers, Task Employees, etc.  My perspective and suggestion is to invert the model and place the CEO at the bottom, supporting everyone above.  Your goal is to build and grow a balanced organization you can handle, and only you will be able to determine how much you can handle, and for how long.

There will always be someone bigger, faster, stronger, or smarter than you.  So what.  Do your best, surround yourself with people smarter than you with similar moral values, stay focused and do your job, regardless of what the job is at the time.  If you’re destined to be a janitor, be the best janitor you can be, period.  Walk with Purpose.

What’s next:  What does the future look like for your company?

I anticipate our ongoing R&D efforts to create a Digital Thread and alleviate the VA backlog for Veterans seeking replacement prosthetic sockets to mature over within the next year.  Our STEM Educational & Engineering Toolkit coupled with our Work Force Development effort for Veterans and First Responders will mature and be brought to market within the same timeframe.  Mentis continues to support the development of high temperature materials and structures for our National and International customers, the DoD and the Warfighter.

msi-logoThe Future is always unpredictable.  What is next is what has kept us in business for over 20 years: consistency.  Mentis is home to unique talented, and dedicated employees who Walk with Purpose to serve our existing, and new customers.  We will continue to remain resilient; adapt to new and changing environs; and be mindful of the process and our employees and customers’ needs as they evolve.