Leaders of growing companies fortunate enough to qualify for credit often complain of tight borrowing limits or of bankers who force them to "rest" credit lines (read: pay them off) just when they most need the money.

Although entrepreneurs have no say about whether or not they rest their credit lines, they do have some control over when they do so. To get an insider's perspective on the best use of credit lines, Inc. contacted Barbara Blum, the chief executive of the Adams National Bank, in Washington, D.C. Her first suggestion to small businesses: "Think of your credit line as a yo-yo. Your borrowing will go up and down -- bankers expect that -- but your borrowing should match your business cycles."

If you time your credit-line usage correctly, you should be able to take a breather during a strong upturn in cash flow. "If you can rest your credit line for 30 consecutive days, your banker won't worry about your misusing the line to hide losses," says Blum.

Her final tip: "Use your credit line for short-term capital needs -- such as covering payroll during a cash-flow crunch." Applying it to long-term needs, such as equipment purchases, makes it that much tougher to pay off promptly.

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Credit lines are a perennial headache for entrepreneurs. For some insights into the credit problems that experienced business owners face -- and the ways they try to deal with them -- see "Four Smart Ways to Manage Your Credit Line," 05941581.

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